Friday, November 17, 2017

Germany

Rob didn't fly home with us.  He had work to do in Germany after our trip so he flew straight to Frankfurt and has been busy doing whatever it is he does there.  He is loving it. Loving the countryside and the food and the work.  It's been fun to see his pictures and whatnot.  I am grateful for his good job and the many wonderful opportunities it has given us and the lifestyle it has provided.

 The second I got home it was back to normal.  An hour later I was taking Grace to choir.  There was laundry to do and seminary to wake up for and all normal family life things waiting for me.

Mom and Dad have been staying a few more days and it's been really fun to have them here.  Mom and I have been sewing dresses for Hannah and Kenz for the Yule ball next month.
Ethan's had soccer team try outs this week.  I think today is the last day of try outs.  I sure hope he makes it!

Yesterday was very busy with the dress making and the kid stuff and some of mom's friends dropping by to visit while we worked and we fed the missionaries.

It's a blessed and busy life!



in conclusion

street food
It's been hard to recount our trip.  It's hard to find the words to really describe the experience.  Since I was an older teenage I have wanted to go to Israel.  It was the number one item on my "bucket list" and I still can't believe we went.  Amazing.  

It was an awesome trip.  Unexpected, different that I might have imagined, profoundly moving, eye opening, beautiful and sad and wonderful all at the same time.

On the first night that was stayed in Jerusalem we ended up leaving our hotel and taking a walk.  Rob and I started off on our own but soon met up with a group from our tour and then wandered the streets together.  It was fun to take in the sights and just to walk and talk together.  
A few days later on our tour we ended up on the exact same street. What I didn't know that first night was we walked right by the Garden Tomb, like literally brushing our hands along the outside wall as we went down the road.  This street vendor is standing outside of the Damascus gate of the old city.  I had no clue. We walked down the road where for sure Jesus walked not once but more likely many many times and I had no idea. 
This trip to walk where Jesus walked was so crazy because there we were.  Sometimes I really felt the spirit testify of the sacredness of where we were and more importantly of the divinity of the Christ.  Sometimes it was just a regular- super amazing, historic, beautiful wonder :)

Since we've been back I've been talking to people, mom and dad mostly but also others, who have wanted me to share what it was like.  What did I learn, feel, see.  There aren't really good words for that because I went knowing Jesus Christ.  Knowing about his life.  Having read the Bible many times. Having heard the stories from my youth and having taught them my whole adult life there was nothing "new" to that.  But seeing where it happened, and in some cases where it might have happened or close to where it happened, made it pop in my mind to a new level.  What once was sort of black and white now is in living color. I will always cherish those memories and be grateful I went. (not that I didn't learn a lot, our guide was amazing and the cultural, historic, political, geographic insights he gave and teaching his did was incredible)

At the same time I am well aware that a journey there is not required for a rich and full understanding of who Jesus is.  I love Him and am SO grateful for his atoning blessings in my life.

I wonder how often I have walked down the road of life having no idea how close He was, or missing what I should see/learn/do because I was distracted by life, by the sights and sounds and wonders around me? Distracted by seeking fun or amusement.  When we were on the road the 2nd time and I realized all I had walked by obliviously an evening or two before it really hit me that I need to be a devoted disciple all the time.  That my purpose needs to be singularly focused on doing what is good and right and in seeking after Jesus.

That lesson and many other lessons I bring home with me from the Holy Land.  That and a dead sea tee shirt, stuffed camel and olive wood nativity ;)
Jaffa

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Capernaum, Galilee and the Jordan River

Peter's home
We went to the city of Capernaum. It was one of my favorite spots.  We know that it's exactly where it was when the Savior was on earth and that he was there.

They think they know where Peter's home was and we visited there.  We learned about the architecture at the time and how it would have been very easy to remove part of the roof and lower someone in to be blessed by Him.
the synagogue
This is the synagogue where Jesus would have gone to study and teach.  This is the shore line right in front of the city.  A little way down there is a sandy spot where most likely the disciples would have gone to clean their nets.  All of these places are places that Christ would have walked and talked and lived.
the shore of Galilee
It was very beautiful and peaceful there.
the travelers
fresh pomegranate juice
A lot of the food on our trip I didn't love.  Some was really good though.  We had two especially tasty meals.  Also a favorite was the fresh juice.  Vendors on the street sold it and we often stopped and got a cup.  
I also really liked the Jerusalem bagels, also bought on the street one afternoon.
poms
Nana and Abba
We went on a boat ride on the Galilee.  We sailed right in front of the city and talked about the different events that happened on those waters.  It was really neat.  We danced on the boat and enjoyed the lovely breeze.  I thought about Jesus being out there many times.  Sometimes in storms, sometimes not.
St Peter's fish (tilapia)
After we went to lunch.  We had fish and salads and hummus.  I was glad that most places we could get coke.  Yay! It usually wasn't served cold though.
coke, thank goodness
sunset on the Galilee
We visited the river Jordan.  Like everything in Israel it is smaller than you would think.  There were a lot of people there getting baptized and there was a lot of commotion. Despite this it was very pretty there and I can image the day when John the Baptist baptized our Lord and God the Father Himself announced that He was pleased.

the river Jordan

kibbutz

learning about milking the animals
There are many kibbutz in Israel.  It is a community that lives together and shares all things in common.  Sort of a form of socialism.  No one owns personal property and all share in the work. 

We had a fun stop one evening at one where we learned more about life in the first century.  We donned the traditional clothing and milked the goat.  We learned how to make goat cheese, you get a little a bit of milk in a cup, get a fig leaf and break open the stem and then stir the milk with the stem.  The sap curdles the milk and viola you have cheese.  It was warm and kind of strange to the taste but a great source of protein if you were a herder spending time out in the field.
blowing the shofar
I got milk!
One thing that so impressed me was how the Jews were devoted to their personal religious practises.  Our host had to rush off at the end of our visit to get to synagogue on time.  
On the plane ride both to Tel Aviv and back there were many Jews on the plane.  Some ultra orthodox, wearing black and white and ready for the bridegroom to return and to enter into the feast at a moments notice, some just looking regular and every flavor in between. Anyway from time to time they would get up and wash and prepare and then pray.  Some of the prayers lasted a long time.  No matter where they are, or who is around, the stop and pray. I don't want to stop and pray in the middle of the aisle of an airplane but I do want to remember to stop and kneel privately and pray earnestly with the same devotion.  It was a good example to me.
selfie

Nazareth Village


We visited the town of Nazareth.  Of course it is today a 21 century city.  Busy and built up.  Archeologist know where the original town was, the one Jesus grew up in.  About 5 miles from there there is a village that has been recreated to be like it was in the 1st century.  We visited there and it was really a fun part of our trip.  The land is very terraced in Israel so there are winding paths with rock walls and everything happens in layers.
200 hundred year old tree
We saw how the gardens grew and where the people would have walked to get water, tend their fields and flocks, visit one another.

olive press
We saw an olive press and learned about how important olive oil was to life back then.  It was fun to watch the donkey press the olives.  Olive oil was used for everything.  The oil from the first press was holy and used for anointing. The next press was used for cooking and many other uses.  The third press would be used for lighting lamps and making soaps and other more course uses.  Pretty much everything was based on that little plant.
sheep fold
Sheep, as it turns out, are not very smart animals.  They need the constant care and attention of the shepard to survive.  We learned (not here but it's find for recounting purposes) that the goats and sheep that are in the fields together are very different animals.  The goats are resources and smart.  They can smell water from far away and will go to it to drink.  They know their families and will wander back to them.  The sheep need to be led to water or they will die even if they are pretty close to it.  They are marked to separate them by the owners because they are too dumb to know where the belong.  The shepard gives his whole life to caring for and protecting the sheep.  
It's curious that we are the sheep of the shepard.  We really can't do much about our salvation with out His care.  He guides us a long and keeps us safe.
oil lamp
olive press
dyeing wool

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gethsemane and Bethlehem

We started our morning high up on the mount of olives. Looking down on the valley and then up again at the city walls of Jerusalem. We could see the sealed east gate and the golden dome glistening in the sunlight. It was beautiful. 



Doran walked us through the events that happened there, pointing to the places Jesus walked and the areas where things happened. As he talked I could picture in my minds eye the story unfolding. It was very emotional and I cried as I listened to him. 



We walked the Palm Sunday walk, which is much steeper than you would imagine, and into the garden of gethsemane. The first sight to greet you is a 3000 year old olive tree. One that was there that night for sure. The garden is beautiful but not peaceful. It is super crowded and there are many people there who worship in a variety of different styles, some very expressively (read loudly). After our visit we crossed the street to a small garden where no one was. Our group sat and listened to a sermon (it was my favorite of our time here) and then had time to quietly walk around and think. 



From the garden we got on the bus and went to Bethlehem. This was unexpected as it was not on our itinerary. We had to cross the border to the Palestinian controlled West Bank. There were ominous signs warning Jews not to enter and plenty of barbed wire and semi-automatic weapons about. Once in Bethlehem we all noticed how dirty it was. There was trash everywhere. We ate lunch at a place that was really delicious! The lamb was too die for and the baklava was heavenly. Most of the food we’ve had has been fine but not awesome. Last nights dinner, and today’s lunch though, were delish!



We did some shopping. I bought a nativity, Nana got some jewelry. And then went to the Shepard’s Field. This was really special. Doran talked about how the Shepards cared for the sheep. And how one night an angelic proclamation found them on a hillside tending them. And how it was they, the humble shepards who first heard the news of the holy birth. We climbed down to a cave, a grotto much like the one Christ must have been born in, and imagined what it was like that night. It felt like the real place to me and from now on I will remember that cave, how it was sheltered from the elements, and private and safe, how it smelled in there and how the smooth dirt floor looked, I’ll forever see the rough walls and hear the sheep bleating.  I can picture Mary in her travail and Joseph by her side. I know what it’s like to bring forth a baby and wrap it up tight and to thank God for the privilege of doing so. I can imagine it well and now I have a setting that is real.





We left Bethlehem and went back to Jerusalem. This time to enter by the gates to the temple. We walked the streets and just after dusk reached the steps of the temple. The very place where Jesus would have walked in and out many times. We walked where he walked and listened to the recounting of his work there. It was again more special than words can adequately describe. 



We went to the west wall and took time to pray. Then toured beneath the city. It was fascinating. So much history. So many layers. So many people praying and remembering. Some waiting for Him to come again, others waiting for Him to come at all. 

It was a good, long, beautiful day.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dead Sea Day

I have tried to post every day. The internet has been too slow, which is frustrating because  I want to record each day. I’m going to try with no pictures and see if that works. If it does I can add them in later and at least go back in write the words.

So today is Saturday. It was Dead Sea day! We drove out of Jerusalem and down into the desert. We saw lots of Bedouin homes as we drove. They live in what looks like make shift tents with camels and kids and sheep roaming around in front. Doran talked to us about the difference between sheep and goats. He said the goats are smart. They can smell water 20 miles away and get to it. The sheep can be standing a few feet away and will miss it unless the shepard takes them there. They need the Shepard to show them the way of life. 


We stopped at sea level and met a very cute camel named Shoshann. I rode him, as did several others in our group. 



We had several stops today. Our first was at En Gobi. This is the place where David went to hide from Solomon. 



Then we went to Masada. This was incredible. Herod built this opulent fortress and castle with gardens and a bath house and every luxury at the top of a huge mountain. We rode up by cable car. It was just amazing. From the top you could see Sodom, or at least where it once was. And the Moab mountains where Ruth was from. It’s crazy how much Doran knows and how much he is telling us about the land and history and Judaism.




Next we went to Quaram where the Dead Sea scrolls were found and learned about them. 

Last on the itinerary was floating in the Dead Sea. This was pretty neat. You feel weightless and it’s super crazy. It was soooo crowded and hard to get to the dressing rooms and the water was kind of slimy feeling. We had fun though. I lost a shoe in the muddy bottom and Rob had to rescue and old guy who got water in his eyes ( a huge no-no ) and we completely lost and unable to get out by himself. It’s so salty that it burns your eyes, you can drown by taking a drink or it and it stings any cut you have.



Unfortunately on the way back to the hotel Nana sprained her ankle. Hopefully she’ll feel better tomorrow but she missed dinner tonight. Abba, Rob and I walked over to the American something hotel to eat in their super swanky restaurant. I had the best lamb I’ve ever had. Our dinner was fancy and yummy. Shortly after we got seated a party came in with several Catholic priests in their group and with 5 bodyguards. We don’t know who it was but we were impressed. 

After dinner we had a mission to find an ace bandage. There are no CVS’s or Walgreens about but we did find a medical clinic that was open and so we went there and explained what happened and eventually were able to buy what we needed. Many people speak English, but with varying degrees of proficiency, so I was impressed that we actually came back with the needed item!

This place is so warm and welcoming and there are people from every country speaking every language. It’s kind of crazy!