Israel Day 9-11

Our time in Israel is quickly coming to an end.  I could sense it too.  The days were becoming longer, fuller and a certain urgency was tangible.  With the agenda full and the importance of this place I surely did not want to miss out on anything and yet at the same time there was so much to process already.  Here we go with our last few days in this beautiful country.  

We visited the Israeli museum and gained perspective on the city.  Within the museum walls are original scripts found on the Dead Sea Scrolls with descriptions of where and how they were found and what is written.  There was also a trip to the market, where my five senses came to life. So much to take in.  Lunch at a fish and chips stand, wandering through crooked streets and alleyways, stumbling upon a tiny coffee stand and watching the students navigate bartering, purchasing and enjoying treats of local fare.  My very favorite things to do while exploring. 

Lunch in the market!

To scale model of the city of Jerusalem

The bus traveled dirt roads and hills to take us to the Elah Valley, the site of David's memorable battle against Goliath.  While sitting and reading through scripture of that fight I was reminded of David's faithfulness in the everyday.  The way he developed his relationship with the Lord, daily through praise and worship. It was powerful being on this hill overlooking the valley, reading the story of what went down here. I could see David, small and mighty, Goliath too, full of ego and confident in his stature, almost certain of victory.  And then in a way only the Lord could, the unexpected won.  

Valley of Elah

One night we walked to the ancient citadel of Jerusalem, around the tower and into a viewing of the Tower of David Night Time Spectacular light show.  And spectacular it was!  The lights displayed within the courtyard of the Citadel depicted the history of Jerusalem over 4000 years.  I sat mesmerized by the music and the craftsmanship of not only the ancient walls we were sitting within but the story being told on them.  

We traveled to Bethlehem early one morning and as we did the stark contrast to what we were leaving behind was obvious.  It is a Christian Arab town under the PLA and as we entered in I was unsure of what was waiting for us.  There is the Church of the Nativity, originally built in the 4th century and then replaced with a larger more ornate church in the 6th century.  Within this building are segregated areas belonging to various religious sects and just beyond the Greek Orthodox altar are steps leading to the Grotto of the Nativity, said to be the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus.  Nearby is another chapel, where she supposedly laid Jesus after his birth.  This tour was heady and filled with information, more than I could absorb.  While useful and helpful in understanding context and geography my conclusion is that there is skepticism around exactly where the birth took place.  And understandably so, none of us living today were present then.  Moving on.  We stopped at the Shepherd's field where angels could have appeared to the shepherds announcing Jesus' birth.  There we paused and offered our own worship in the form of songs.  The day continued in Bethlehem with a trip to an olive wood factory.  We saw the master carvers at work and the pile of olive wood waiting to be turned into masterpieces.  Their shop was filled with the most beautiful nativities.  Side note, there is also a coffee shop in Bethlehem known as "Stars and Bucks", not to be confused with Starbucks as we know it and most definitely not the same.  

At work in the olive wood factory.

Shepherd's Valley overlook.

City steps in Bethlehem.

Leaving Bethlehem we saw a different kind of scenery out our bus windows.  Watch towers, barbed wire and military personnel in search of land mines.  How surreal.  I don't really have the words to accurately describe what I saw or what I was thinking as I took it all in.  

Another stop on the itinerary was Golgotha, known as Skull Rock and the Garden Tomb.  After gaining some perspective on location and our whereabouts I realized just how close in proximity we were to actual neighborhoods and city living while at these sites.  Life has been built up around them.  And yet here they are, withstanding the test of time.  There we were.  The supposed location of the tomb where Christ was buried and then rose.  The grounds are beautiful, meticulously maintained and we sat and listened to a brief explanation about the mountain side, where a bus transit lot is adjacent.  Once again modern life continued on as we heard these ancient stories.  A line was formed to enter the tomb and even if it isn't the actual place where Christ was buried the real life viewing of it is otherworldly.  Beyond the photo opportunities is a quaint chapel and there I sat, with our group, waiting to partake in the elements of communion.  To celebrate our time in this sacred land together and worship our King who rose from the dead so we could have eternal life.  It was beautiful.  

We're almost there and yet there is still so much.  We entered the Western Wall Tunnels and saw the largest single cut stone in the world, weighing in at 600 tons.  Underground we continued witnessing Herod's grand design and impressive architectural conquests.  On to Bethesda.  The place where Jesus healed a paralytic, as told in John 5:1-15.  A man that had been an invalid for thirty eight years, who sat waiting in the colonnades for potential healing.  And when Jesus came to him, he asked, "do you want to be healed?", the man answered that he had no one to help him into the pool, and when the opportunity would arise someone always steps in front of him; Essentially leaving him without another way.  Jesus told the man to get up and walk.  And he did, immediately, leaving the area.  Just like that.  Maybe it was in the asking.  Maybe in the believing.  Whatever took place here was a miracle.  And not the only one in this place.  But this one, this one spoke volumes to me.  The man asked.  Jesus did not hesitate.  He granted the man's request.  Then the paralytic got up and walked.  He did not have to worry about someone stepping in front of him.  He didn't have to push or shove, fight or negotiate, plead or compromise in any way.  He got up and walked.  Right after asking.  There is a lesson in there for me.  Also, this was one of two miracles Jesus performed in Jerusalem.  Interestingly enough, they both took place at the water, the one referenced above and the other at the Pool of Siloam, which we had seen at the outlet of Hezekiah's tunnel.  St. Anne's Church, the church of Mary's mother, is located near the Pool of Bethesda and we walked in awestruck.  The acoustics in this place were phenomenal.  Our group formed a circle and began singing and my heart just couldn't contain itself.  Pure and holy.  On to the Holy Church of the Sepulcher, the more likely place that Jesus was buried due to excavations uncovering a rock quarry wall where tombs had been cut into during the first century AD.  The grandness of this church caught me off guard.  Up the steps there was a service taking place and priests walked the entry way with outstretched hands waiting to be kissed.  I felt a certain heaviness in this place and I didn't spend too much time inside.  We walked the Via Dolorosa, otherwise known as the "way of agony", a Catholic created path of the traditional Stations of the Cross.  That lead us into the marketplace.  We had time in the market to explore in small groups and once again barter and shop and take in the local fare.  This area and market was a bit different as we were in the Muslim quarter.  The negotiating did not come as easily and there was a noticeable shift.  Not one to accept the first offer and most definitely not one to pay asking price in a street market I walked away empty handed quite a bit.  Sometimes to my own detriment because I simply forgot the exchange rate or was being too stubborn to accept defeat.  Which of course wasn't really defeat but a bruising in my prideful way.  Yes, I am aware.  I only hope I didn't offer too terrible an example for the young eyes watching me.  I did walk away with a few treasures for the family and some ice-cream that I even attempted to bargain for.  And in the end Thing 2 and I along with our buddy had quite the adventure.  Lessons learned for certain and if nothing else I can laugh at myself now, and I did then too!  What a contrast to the holy singing I mentioned not sentences before.  Hmmm.  

Western Wall tunnels.

My girl.

Singing in St. Anne's Church.

Pool of Bethesda- five porticoes mentioned in the Gospel story (John 5:2)

Via Dolorosa

Walking within the Western Walls.

Light streaming in the church.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

While we were within the Western Wall we visited the outside of it.  The place where prayers are offered and pleadings are made for the glory and light to return.  Men and women are separated in this place, and underground within the men's area is the foundation stone.  On our side there are women and children, covered and not, tourists and not.  There is wailing, which the wall is aptly named for, there are tiny pieces of paper tucked in between it's stones and backwards walking to exit the place.  It is so much to digest.  In one place.  At a single time.  On an isolated visit.  The history, the conflict, the pain, it comes to a head for me here and I am about undone.  I want to understand and yet there are some things that are not meant to be understood.  Or at least that is what I tell myself in the moment.  

The Western Wall

And with this brief description of our late afternoon Ramparts Walk we are just about at the end of our journey.  Psalm 48 was referenced while we stood and waited to began our walk.  In this particular Psalm God is touted as the defender of Jerusalem, His presence is glorified and His power praised because He is within this city, as was believed because of the Temple's presence here.  Let it be so.  We walked up and down the stairs, peeked in the lookouts and it struck me what a mighty city Jerusalem is.  At the end of our walk we prayed and it was powerful.  Hearing the hushed words of our group, pouring out hearts and crying out to the Lord for this city and her people.  I wonder if there has ever been a more beautiful act of worship than offering thanksgiving to our Savior.  

View from the Ramparts.

And now to our final meal together in Israel.  We had a brief window of time to return to our hotel and shower before our trek home began.  In a frenetic pace we divided boys and girls into single rooms, showered, packed and readied ourselves for the journey to our last meal at the table as a group and our flight home.  Dinner was at a small restaurant off the beaten path, a hidden gem if you will.  We even drove on the Road to Emmaeus and landed in Abu Gash, the very place that Samson would have been "hanging out", so many centuries ago.  The tables were covered with platters of delicious food, local to the region and we devoured each and every bite, all while we laughed and shared a special memory of our time together with the entire group.  I'm not much for speaking in front of large groups but this act of remembering and celebrating and sharing marked me.  I relished this time hearing out loud what was significant about this time from everyone, including our tour guide, Aaron and our trip leaders.  The students had been preparing a song for our extraordinary tour guide and bus driver and so when dinner was over, photos were taken and goodbyes exchanged they made a tunnel and sent Aaron and his family as well as Elie our bus driver off with fan fare, in the very best way!  This group knows how to celebrate well!  And from there it was karaoke on the bus all the way to the airport and laughter that filled the bus.  Never, ever a dull moment.  

Table #1

Table #2

The goodbye tunnel! 

And with that we boarded our plane and headed back to the United States.  First stop, Minneapolis.  That was a sweet lay over for Thing 2 and I.  We were able to say hello and give hugs to a few friends and then we waited for our next flight.  After about 36 hours of travel time we landed in TN and were oh so happy about it.  It was a remarkable ten days spent in Israel and I will be forever grateful to have shared that experience with Thing 2.  

Us, worn out but still smiling in Nashy! 













Israel...Day Six - Eight

* I am writing this many months after the fact.  I know I've mentioned it before but there is something to be said for the in the moment memories.  Some thoughts were captured in my journal entries while abroad, others I am recalling and doing my best to put to paper.  The photos help.  My natural inclination is to rush through, place some pictures on the page and call it done.  I am trying not to do that but to share some thoughts, heart promptings and otherwise with you from a trip that has marked me in ways hard to convey.  Thank you for reading, thank you for not expecting much and thank you for your patience.

Another day.  This time no running outside, a quick work out in the hotel gym and then it was off to breakfast and the day's agenda.  I won't lie, today had me a bit worried.  Hezekiah's tunnel was on the docket and I can err on the side of claustrophobic if I'm not cautious.  I about worked myself into a tizzy, on the inside of course.  After all I was a chaperone and I'm supposed to be the one keeping it together, right?  Hardly.  Let me back up.  Our day begin at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.  We walked through the grounds, touching the stones, standing where Jesus would have, looking at the agora, the steps to the Temple Mount and the Huddah Arches.  I pondered the Temple Mount this morning.  Mostly in ways I hadn't been able to give context to prior to this trip.  It's significance.  The state of the sacred site currently.  All the battles waged over the ownership and how it must grieve our Lord to watch His people.  Thankful to have confidence in the redemptive power He holds and the restoration that will come.  One day.  For now, we're moving on.  I am inclined to head in a downward spiral discussing these issues and I can get tangled up in the politics, religiosity and historical significance of it all.  This time I say no.  Not today.  We'll move on to our next stop.  At least I think it was our next stop.  We went to Hezekiah's tunnel.  The walls enclosing this site had a golden harp embedded  in them.  A center piece, if you will.  To say here, David was here.  We watched a short movie before preparing to navigate the tunnel system.  King Hezekiah built this tunnel system to bring water in from the Gihon Springs to the Pool of Siloam.  It spans 1600 miles and over 100 years ago a six line Hebrew inscription was discovered that describes the construction and creation of the tunnel.  This day we walked it.  Thing 2 and I were towards the front of the line and I felt much more secure there.  Against my better judgment I proceeded with my cell phone flash light.  While it provided comfort I did worry about dropping it in the calf deep water we were treading through.  Thankfully that did not happen.  I was able to capture a single photo of my girl and I with big smiles.  Our group started singing while we were wading through and it brought such relief.  The sound of their voices echoing off the stone walls and a group in unison was oddly reassuring.  In some places even I had to duck and I couldn't imagine what it would have been like to be down there, in the darkness and dampness day in and day out carving out the stone.  A remarkable feat for certain.    We continued from the other side, or maybe we visited David's tomb first, either way off to the site of David's tomb, supposedly, and a place that many call the "Upper Room" as referenced in Acts.  There is a room beneath filled with graffiti that connects the "home church" that Jesus speaks of.  That had me intrigued.  Home church is something that resonates deep within me.  The way it was done in the beginning.  People gathering in homes, being welcomed in,  allowing the Holy Spirit to invade them and love prevailing.   Yes please.  No frills.  No activates for one and all.  No mass produced worship stage.  No pre-written, stamped out sermons.  Presence.  Authenticity.  Unity.  The architecture had me captivated with the arches and stone and high walls, vines hanging down and the acoustics echoing in beautiful chorus.  We ventured to St. Peter's church of denial and Caiphas' house, possibly the place where Jesus was arrested and stood in prison. It was there, in what felt and looked like a jail cell, that thing 2 read scripture.  I stood on the steps, staring at her.  Almost in disbelief that we were in this place together.  That the words she read actually happened here, where we were.  The gravity of that never ceases to amaze me.  My days are running together here , but since the title of this post is, days 6-8, just know that all these sites were seen within the span of those days.  I think.  We made an unexpected stop at a new museum of sorts, the Friends of Zion, by Mike Evans.  Essentially this space is dedicated to the unsung heroes and figures that have partnered and remained committed to the state of Israel and the history of the Jewish people.  There are various floors, each representing a time period and filled with stories.  Upon our exit of the museum we stumbled upon an interesting sign reading, "Time Elevator".  As in, time travel?  We were taken by it's suggestion and thus ensued the photos and story telling.  Amusing.

The Western Huldah Gate

In the tunnel


Within these few days was our visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.  Whew.  This one took it all out of me.  We were able to walk the exhibits on our own, going at our own pace, stopping where we pleased and spending time with our thoughts and questions.  My take away, where was the church?  I mean come on people.  There are numerous recounts of individuals offering assistance, sacrificing their own safety and making a way.  What I didn't see was a mark or set apart note of how the church body came together to be the church body.  Don't get me wrong, I am no historian.  I wasn't there, didn't live through it or experience it first hand.  And I won't claim to understand the time in which the church lived through this.  As Husband Jared often says, there are no surprises in history.  We can look back 1000 years and then today and see similar strife, hardship, persecution, even the political climate.  What I wasn't prepared for was the exit from the museum.  A vast and open view of the city. Peaceful.  Holy.  Sacred.  This moment stood apart.  After the darkness and heaviness of the museum this respite was welcome.  I paused and processed.  Reflected on what was seen and taken in and just took a few breaths.  I felt a weight that I didn't when we arrived here.  Or more accurately, that I hadn't given much head space to.  The Jewish people's history.  The persecution they've endured, continue to endure and how they have triumphed and will do so again.

In addition to these great sites, we spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It wasn't what I had envisioned it to be, at all.  To begin with, it was across from a church, the Church of All Nations, named after the sixteen countries that assisted in it's building, and while beautiful it still seemed a tad out of place.  There was more than one gated entrance and I came to find out after the fact that the  area of the garden we were in is overseen by a group of Mormons.  I found that to be interesting.  In the garden we walked and prayed and the students spent time reading letters from their family members.  I perused the garden, finding trash and then forcing my mind to return to Jesus.  To the time He spent here.  The trees may not be the ones standing from His time but they are an outgrowth from them.  There may be modern structures surrounding me and the sounds of cars filling the air but if I closed my eyes I could see it.  Him there, the betrayal, the heartache and the agony of knowing what was to come.


Garden gate

And to finish these few days we visited the Mount of Olives with a stunning vantage point of Jerusalem.  Or at least the peaks surrounding the city and where so much of our history was lived out.  We paused for photos and I stared out into the city, studying the city walls, looking at the gate that has been closed and guarded by a cemetery.  The stories that could be told here about the shrines that Solomon built for his wives, David fled here when Absolom was hunting him, the place where Jesus began His journey into Jerusalem on a donkey and the place where the Holy Spirit was promised to the disciples.  There we stood.  Holy ground once again.


From the Mount of Olives


Through the Old City Gate

TWENTY!

Twenty years ago you and I begin this journey together and here we are with you entering a new decade of life.  As we sat at the table this year and I remembered your birth story I thought about how afraid I felt.  Scared that I would mess you up, that I wouldn't be enough, that you wouldn't be proud to be my daughter.  I remember sending your Dad a page when I was headed to the hospital.  I drove myself and checked in and he came running in shortly thereafter.  We sat in that hospital room unaware of just how much your little six pound self would impact our lives.  I can say with confidence today that in that moment that you made me a Mama I have never felt more.  More everything.  The feeling has been multiplied but never the same.  We became a family that day.  Thing 1, I hope you know just how proud I am of you; That I love you more than you will ever know or understand.  I am certain that I have made mistakes, messed some things up and hurt you.  I also know that you are a gift from our heavenly Father and you are His before you are mine and there is peace in that for both of us.  So as we move into this year of 20 let's recall all the ways He has been faithful in your year of 19.  

A graduation from Kairos in Seattle.  A solid 6 months of new and change and learning how to navigate that.  New jobs.  It took a couple that didn't quite fit to find just the right one.  A venture into the collegiate world at Nashville State.  Two semesters in and dare I say that you have enjoyed learning in a new way?  A new car.  Purchased all on your own.  More adulting and weighty decisions made.  You are becoming and unbecoming all at the same time.  An avid researcher and seeker of knowledge.  Pushing boundaries and testing the waters, crafting words to share and teach.  Moving beyond the surface in your own way.  Looking for justice and mercy in a world that doesn't always look like that.  You've been reading all manner of books and underlining pages and that brings your word loving Mama such joy.  You have a way with little ones and it is evident in the stories you tell about your "boys", the two that you nanny.  You're never one to shy away from speaking the truth and offering a different perspective.  You love the urban life, you crave art and creativity and diversity, and you enjoy adventuring to find those things.  All characteristics that have shown through more so this past year.  Keep being you, no one else can.  Again I say what a holy privilege it is to witness as your Mama.  Always and forever your biggest supporter.  Always and forever your champion.  

Here is my prayer for you in this upcoming year, a gift in and of itself.  Don't forget: You are loved and adored by a creator who knit you together in my womb, knew you before you entered the world, numbered your days and knows exactly how many beautiful curls are on your head.  As always I pray for wisdom and discernment as you make choices and decisions moving forward.  I pray for your heart, that it is guarded and protected, held carefully, yet I pray you love in big and small ways. I hope and pray that when you don't know where else to turn you press in heavy to Jesus.  Even when He seems silent or distant, He is there.  Always.  Waiting for you, pursuing you and loving you first.  I pray for truth tellers and Jesus lovers to walk into the doorway of your life.  I hope for your strong friendships rooted, deep and steadfast.  I pray for opportunities to have courage and be brave.  Taking a risk for the kingdom is always worth it.  I pray that when the cost is steep that you still say yes.  I pray you know when to say no and that your motivation is pure.  I pray 20 is the best year yet.

You, beautiful daughter of mine, made me a Mama and I thank you for that gift.
Happy 20th birthday my Sunshine Girl.


Israel...Day Five

And now for the most physically challenging day in Israel.  Masada.  The snake path trail.  The students had been gearing up for this for a few days.  Mentally preparing, sharing pep talks and placing bets, or maybe challenging one another according to capabilities.  Have I mentioned how hot it was while we were there?  I have lived in Arizona and the heat we experienced was oppressive.  Not to mention we were scheduled to be climbing a mountain.  Not too long before our trip a young tourist had fallen off the mountain and had a horrific accident due to the climbing conditions, namely the extreme weather.  The authorities were quite cautious and for a few brief moments we were actually told we would not be able to climb.  Our trusty guide, Aahron, was able to speak with the powers that be and we were allowed to hike.  Here is such a metaphor for my life.  Maybe you can relate?  We began our walk to the beginning of the trail, part way up the small-ish hill we realized that we were going the wrong way.  Thankfully not too long of a detour but a detour nonetheless.  Quickly down the hill and towards the start of the path we went.  I was laughing to myself all the while thinking, why didn't we see the sign?  How did we walk right past that?  Who is in charge here?  Where was the guide?  Oh wait, I was the guide.  Or something to that effect.  I let the group down.  We laughed about our mishap but it was one of those where you think to yourself, "I should have known better".  Essentially it was not a huge ordeal but after the fact, since I've had time to process I know there is something more there.  Similar to the experience the day before at Bethsaida.  Around every corner a lesson waiting to be learned.  Blaze a new trail.  Do not fear.  Pay attention.  Go your own way but know that I will redirect you how I see fit(as heard in my best Jesus voice).  Wink, wink.  So here we go, the hike.  My darling Thing 2 ran ahead with her buddies, racing to the top in break neck speed.  I had aspirations of being there with her, side by side but the Lord had an alternative plan.  That was in the back of the group, bringing up the rear.  Hmmm.  I morphed into a cheerleader of sorts.  Shouting my best "you can do it's" up the hill to the young ladies in front of me.  Offering water and encouraging us to make it up the next set of steps before we paused for a break and photo op.  This was tough.  The heat was oppressive, I worried about those in my charge and I just prayed.  And then when we were close enough to the top I heard voices.  No, I hadn't lost my mind.  Students that had already completed the path were at the top shouting down words of praise and encouragement, championing their peers.  This will go down in the books as one of my most favorite memories.  That was a picture of a generation rising.  Celebrating each other, rooting until the very last one crossed the finish line and holding one another up when they weren't able to make it on their own.  Wow.  I was floored.  Surprised and moved to tears.

On the way up.

We did it!

Israeli Flag, tall and proud.

Me and my Israel roomie, happy to be at the top! 

And again, what are we doing with our hands?  I'm just not sure, either way, we climbed Masada, enough said.

That was the climb.  From there we walked the "stronghold", that is the Hebrew translation for Masada and it is the place where David fled Saul.  I can certainly understand why.  The view is something otherworldly.  Overlooking the entire valley and secure, hidden and seemingly safe.  Until it wasn't.  We had quite the view of the Dead Sea.  Here are a few stats regarding the Sea, in case you are unaware as I was;
1. the sea is formed from the Jordan River and other small streams
2. it is 50 miles long and 10 miles wide
3. it's shores are 1300 feet below sea level
4. the deepest point of the sea is 1300 feet
5. the fresh water evaporates, thus leaving the salinity and mineral content at 25%
6. the water in the sea is 30% heavier than ocean water
So there's that.  Thus explaining the health spas and resorts that have begun to spring up around the area.  There are supposed health benefits in the mud and waters here, not to mention the area is pollen free.

Alright, moving on the En Gedi Springs and Oasis.  We rode the bus down the road to the oasis that David wrote about in the Psalms.  Unassuming and hidden from plain sight one would not know that there were water falls, lush greenery and a welcome respite from the heat behind the rocks and hills.  I heard the rushing water before we actually saw it.   The Psalms began to take shape, assuming a life of their own and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  I dipped my head in the waterfall and it was more than refreshing.  It was such a welcome reprieve from the oppressive heat and demanding environment.

The Springs.

And Israeli soldiers, standing guard.  There were loads of soldiers at En Gedi and my girl in particular was quite intrigued by them.  She boldly walked right up to them and asked for a photo.  Of course.  Then the other girls joined in too.  Because soldiers.  

On our way to En Gedi.

Our day was not over just yet.  From the desert oasis to the tent of Abraham.  What a journey.  An educational tourist site and the place where I would ride a camel, not once but twice.  Also the place where I experienced one of the most memorable meals while in Israel.  The intent of this special place is to transport it's visitors back to the days of Abraham and Abraham himself welcomes you once you have dismounted from your camel.  He opened his tents to us, brought in the best food, the most comfortable pillows and we sat around his tables.  Listening to his stories, viewing the desert surrounding us all while I allowed the sounds and smells to carry me to another time.  The food.  Oh the food, it was a feast for the senses.   It is safe to say that we all had quite the appetite after our hike that morning.

The feast in Abraham's Tent.

Camel riding buddies.

My first camel ride with Jessica.  

And my second camel ride, with Laura, my roomie.  

Well hello there.

Our bus ride to the hotel was a quiet one that afternoon.  Everyone processing the days activities and sights.  We entered Jerusalem and made our way around the windy streets to our hotel, home base for the next few days.

Post dance party in the hall.  Just the three of us, myself, Laura and Thing 2.  We celebrated Anson's 18th birthday and when the room cleared we returned for an after hours dance party and booty shake. Needless to say we needed to be hydrated for said activities.  It was a good, good day.  

Israel...Day Four

Today began with a morning run through the city streets of Tiberias.  Again, I watched the city wake up.  On the docket today, a wooden boat, which reminded me somewhat of the smaller gullets we saw in Turkey.  The waters were calm that morning and our captain attempted to cast a net and retrieve fish from the water.  Similar to how Jesus and His disciples would have done it so many years ago.  I walked along the benches on the boat, pausing to peer over the edge, trying to look down into the water and imagine.  I allowed my mind to float away and picture Jesus on this very water.  Calming the waves.  Reaching out for Peter.  Standing on the water.  Alive.  Here, in this very place.  I mean, how does one even begin?  It was here, around this water that Jesus’ ministry began.  Tiberias, Capernaum, these cities were the hometowns of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  They are described at great lengths in the Gospels.  And me, well I was able to walk there too.  I swam in the water.  I ran the modern day roads built upon these historical places.  When we crossed the lake, we went on shore at a museum, one that housed a boat they believe to be dated to Jesus’ time, over 2000 years old.  It had been found buried under water, completely preserved.  The entire process to excavate and rebuild the boat took over 9 years.  Remarkable.  And we were able to see it, walk around it and watch a video on exactly where this important piece of history was found, how they went about dating the wood and then the preservation of the vessel.  From here we traveled to the Jordan River where some members of our group were baptized.  I dipped my toes in the water and mostly just let the tears flow as I watched.  Never fails.  I was in the singing mood today, on the bus and at the river, I hummed worship tunes and clapped wildly as our friends emerged from the water a new creation.  We traveled to Best Shean, the place where King Saul was beheaded, a town where excavations have unearthed eighteen different cities and the place where in 749AD an earthquake completely destroyed the city.  We walked the streets, shouted in the amphitheatre and imagined what life would have been like with the shop fronts restored and open, the mosaics intact and the pillars standing tall.  Or at least that is what I did.  And I watched.  I watched the young adults run from ruin to ruin exploring.  Lunch was served by a small falafel stand nearby and today I distinctly remember ice cream treats following said lunch.  Maybe because it was especially warm this day or maybe because I love Magnum bars, either way it was enjoyable.  Again we had a bus ride to our next destination, Qumran, the desert mountains that hid the Dead Sea Scrolls until their discovery centuries later.  Never mind the heat, we saw the exact place where they were brought up into the light.  Let the weight of that sink in just a bit.  And then the Dead Sea.  Our hotel was gorgeous, more of a resort than a hotel.  Gorgeous grounds, a pool, gym and access to the Dead Sea, not more than 100 steps from door to sand.  The salt mounds that collect in the sea could be seen on our drive but I do not think that any justice was done to this body of water.  It is unlike anything I have experienced before.  Salty, yes, but the water was this mesmerizing shade of blue-green.  I stepped in and then turned and floated.  Yes, floated in knee deep, rather warm water.  Mud from the "floor" was strategically placed in buckets and quickly became something like war paint and then once photos were taken washed off and the floating continued.  This afternoon was filled with down time and journaling, quiet time and pool antics, a work out and moonlight walk.  It was this night that I witnessed an Israeli fighter jet pass over. Actually I heard it before I saw it and by the time I looked up I was just an afterthought.  At home I've heard it said that the sound of the fighter jest is the sound of freedom, here I'm not certain what the people would call that.  Later in the night I would be visited by Thing 2 and a group of her friends performing a Jewish dance in our hotel room.  That is something I won't soon forget.  Seems they made friends at the hotel and wanted to share in their joy!  And isn't that a piece of travel as well;  Experiencing life with the locals, learning about their lives, their celebrations, their routines and rituals.  I do believe so.  

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Hebrews 6:19

View from the boat

2000 year old boat, excavated from the Sea of Galilee

Jumping for joy at the Jordan River

Beit Shean

Qumran

The Dead Sea...as seen from the bus

Floating!  

Moon rise over the Dead Sea