Thursday, December 1, 2011

Home again......

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Well, today is actually Thursday, December 01, 2011 and we are home, but this is the first chance I’ve had to jot down yesterday’s activities.

Our day had a “leisurely start” in that we didn’t “have” to be at the bus until 11:10. Some in the group choose to explore on their own a little. I woke up with a migraine, so Bill and I just took it easy packing. Unfortunately, I felt lousy most of the day so I don’t recall a lot of details – glad Craig has been blogging and many of you have been following that.

We started at the Temple Mount and saw things like the Dung Gate, Davidson’s Gate, and the Southern Steps.

Lunch was at an outdoor cafĂ© with choice of sharwma, falafel, or pizza. I wasn’t hungry (b/c of migraine). Bill got the falafel. Ronnie A. said the pizza was “o.k.” J (For those of you who don’t know, Ronnie owns and operates Colonial Pizza in Cedarville)

After lunch we walked the last 10 stations of the Via Delorosa and much of the Old City. The fresh air, exercise and distractions seemed to help my head a little at the time.

Our last official stops were the Place of the Skull and the Garden Tomb. We shared communion at the Garden Tomb and that was a special time.

We had supper at a nice mid-eastern place and presented Romi and Hezi with gifts both monetary and otherwise (a C.U. ball cap for Romi to keep the sun out of his eyes and a C.U. sweatshirt for Hezi). I’m not sure about Hezi, but the tour bus guys work for commission and tips. When I think of it, I’m not sure how a lot of people survive on what they seem to make (or not) over here. Anyway, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy the meal there either as I was beginning to feel really lousy again.

We left the restaurant and headed for the airport. As they were unloading our luggage, I thought the ground was moving and couldn’t figure out why that would be. I asked Bill if the ground was moving? He realized I was pretty sick and he and Lois J. took over from there. We got through all the checks somehow and onto the plane. I pretty much passed out for a couple of hours, but was awakened by an overhead announcement asking if there was a doctor on the plane that could help in the back of the plane. The guy in the seat behind me got up immediately and went as well as a couple of others, for which I was grateful as I still wasn’t sure which end was up for me, let alone help someone else. Several in our group later told me they were afraid the doctor was being called for me. Guess I wasn’t looking so good. J

Anyway – I felt pretty miserable for most of the flight, coming in and out of wakefulness. Around 6 a.m., the pain in my head finally began to let up. We said good-bye to David and Julie in the Philadelphia airport, as well as the Weeks. Christine stayed with us until Columbus, and then she flew onto Chicago.

Elvin King and Luke Tucker picked us up at the Columbus airport. It was a great trip, but I do so love Ohio. J Arriving home we ignored advice and took a 3 hour nap. Bill has started coughing and hacking. Guess he was feeling “left out” as many in the group came home in various stages of illness. Most everything is unpacked and the laundry is done. Looks like some elves have been here in my absence and begun Christmas decorating.

If I had to rate what my top 3 highlights were, I think I’d say 1) The Sea of Galilee boat/worship experience 2) Masada – the climb was worth it! And 3) Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Bill and I both feel we have a much better grasp of Jesus’ life and times for having spent time where He actually lived and walked. Getting to know several in the group better that we have gone to church with for some time was a definite plus. Craig and Kathy are knowledgeable and caring leader/teachers and Hezi is a knowledgeable and delightful tour guide. It was a trip of a lifetime. J

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wednesday November 30

Hi, this is Bill. Today we tour Jerusalem a little more, culminating in communion in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our flight leaves tonight a little after 11:00. We’ve loved our time here,  but as usual, we’re looking forward to getting home and seeing everyone.

Tuesday November 29, 2011

Another full day! Bill and I feel like we have definitely gotten our money’s worth on this trip.
We started at the Wailing Wall (The Jews call it the Western Wall) this morning. It wasn’t what I expected – although I’m not quite sure what I expected. We were there before 8 a.m. and it wasn’t crowded at all. Kathy told me that at times you can’t get near the wall b/c of the crowds. We went way down into the Temple Mount – this is the place with the HUGE boulder that is all one piece that we’ve heard Craig talk about before. There was a “tour guide class” ahead of us that slowed us down quite a bit until Hezi finally moved us around them. Tourism is “the thing” around here. Gabrielle told us yesterday (was it only yesterday?) in Bethlehem that tourism is the ONLY industry in Bethlehem when I questioned her why there seemed to be so many healthy, young men just loitering around. If you don’t work in tourism of some sort, you basically don’t work.
We walked 2 stations of the Via Delorosa – the only 2 that they are certain Christ walked. And, of course, there were the peddlers……
At the Pool of Bethesda, Craig talked to us from John 5. We walked into a smallish church there that’s name escapes me right now, that had great acoustics and sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” A African group came in behind us and sang “I Surrender All.” Quite beautiful. I hear last trip Roy Carr sang for the group in that church – wish I could have heard that there!
We walked through some more tunnels where they are excavating the City of David – we did a lot of tunnels today. Our favorite tunnel was Hezekiah’s tunnel. Now that was fun! Craig read us the story (from II Kings 8 ?? – I need to look it up again).There was some initial concern that the water would be really freezing, that Bill would be too claustrophobic to enjoy it, etc., but we had none of that. The water was cool, but not uncomfortably so and was really never over my knees. It was tight in some places, but the whole thing was just so interesting that Bill couldn’t help but enjoy himself. We had to buy little flashlights b/c we accidently left ours on the bus. I won’t go into detail here, but I will pass along this one piece of advice: Only listen to Lois J. about certain things involving walking through the tunnel if you are on the shorter side, like her. That’s all I’m saying…….
We drove past Gehanna. Not much to see that I remember. We had a very good lunch at Rama Rachel Kibbutz. If I remember right, that kibbutz is one honoring Rachel.
We spent a sobering couple of hours at Yad Vashem, the Israeli memorial for victims of the Holocaust. There was a large group of young Israeli soldiers going through the museum at the same time we were. There is also a simple but moving children’s memorial for the one and a half million children that were lost during the Holocaust. There are 5 candles surrounded by 2 solid walls of mirrors that dimly light a large room. Several kid’s pictures are on the wall and all one and a half million of the kid’s names, ages, and country of birth are read over and over in 3 languages – English, Yiddish and Hebrew.
The bus dropped some of us off to do some more shopping in the Old City (same place we were last night). Becca – we found your sandals and have a story to go with them. The moral of the story is when Craig tells you to ask Shabon first, you should ask Shabon first.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed a leisurely supper. One of the best things about this trip has been getting to know some of the people we’ve gone to church with for a while better.
Well, I could go on, but I’ve hit the highlights and I’m tired so I’m going to quit and go to bed. In the morning we pack and head out to see a few more sights – I think one of them is the garden tomb and I think we have communion there – and later to Tel Aviv and then home. This probably won’t get posted until tomorrow……..
This has truly been a trip of a lifetime. Both Bill and I are glad we’ve done this blog even if nobody reads it. We have done SO MUCH  and seen SO MUCH, there is no way we would have remembered it, if we hadn’t written at least some of it down. We’re so glad we came. We’ll be glad to get home. Hope to see you all soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday November 28, 2011

We started out the day at Gethsemane. You have to walk down a really steep hill to get there – the one the people laid palm branches, shouting “hosanna” as Jesus came riding into Jerusalem. You can see much of the city from the top – quite impressive.
The Mt of Olives is near there also. I’ve learned a lot about olive trees since I’ve been here – they’re pretty impressive trees. Craig spoke to us and then we split up into family or single units, each found an olive tree and spent a precious time praying. Just so each of the Ragles and Longs know (our immediate and sibling units) – each of your names have been spoken in prayer on the Mt. of Olives.
Lunch was provided for us today by the Imagine tour group – a nice touch on their behalf. We had some kind of BBQ.
We visited Caiaphas’ house and saw the “cave/holding cell” Jesus was most likely kept in awaiting His trial. Craig spoke to us from Ps. 88 there.
Following this we headed to Bethlehem. We had to drop Hezi off and pick up an Arab guide as it is dangerous for any Jewish guide to go into Arab controlled territory – they fear being kidnapped and being held as ransom for terrorists. We spent some time shopping at a Arab Christian run shop that employs/helps Christians.  A little pricey, but we are told it helps the Christians.
The next stop was at the Church of the Nativity/Manager. It was very commercialized and although I’m glad we saw it, it didn’t interest me a lot b/c of the commercialization. But it was a good “visual” for me at our next stop – Shepherd’s Field (A.K.A Ruth’s Field) where Craig shared Luke 2 and challenged us not to become commercialized Christians, but instead to be sure our relationship with Christ is real and that that is what people see.
On the way back, we stopped and picked Hezi up and then went to the Shrine of the Book and Museum of Israel where we saw things from the Dead Sea scrolls.
Hezi and Romi (Arab bus driver) dropped us off at a shopping district not too far from the hotel. Here we met “Shabon,” Craig’s good friend who gives us good deals. J He insisted on serving us all tea before shopping. We walked back to the hotel, had supper and are once again exhausted. J Tomorrow starts very early and we have another full day, so I’ll say good night.

Sunday Nov 27, 2011

A beautiful day here in Israel! Craig started us out on the bus reminding us that GBC was starting Advent with “Hope” today. I wish everyone of you could experience this trip.
Our first stop today was Gideon’s spring. Craig shared the story again with us from Judges. There was a HUGE crab in the spring today. The site is now in a national park – very peaceful while we were there.
From the spring we went to Megiddo and Craig shared about Armageddon. The water system there is quite impressive. Leaving, we passed the Mt. of Manasseh.
Our next stop was Mt. Carmel (“God’s Vineyard”) and Craig talked to us from I Kings 18.
We had flafal for lunch again – there were other choices. I’ve just taken a liking to it. J
Caesarea Maritine was a highlight viewing ancient ruins and the Roman aqua duct system. We collected a few shells and pieces of Roman pottery shard off of the beach. A few brave souls (the Jacobs) waded in the Mediterranean while the rest of us just splashed our hands in it. The Crusader City there and its history was very interesting. ML – you can tell the BSF girls it turned out to be a sort of “BSF spot” for me as the ruins of a house they have reason to believe to be Cornelius’ was there, as well as the Roman theatre where Herod was struck down for not giving glory to God (Acts 12). (Also, ML – please tell S I couldn’t help but think of his teacher and the worms. J)
We drove through the Valley of Elah – Goliath’s land and stopped at the creek where David felled Goliath with a smooth stone and slingshot. Hezi had us each pick up 5 small smooth stones as a commemoration of our time there……I wasn’t so sure. I have never seen such ROCKY fields anywhere. I have my suspicions that Hezi was doing his small part to help rid Israel of some of her rocks! J
There is a HUGE concrete wall between the Israel and Palestine – a very visual reminder of the difficulties between the countries here. After we got off of the (only) toll road in Israel, we headed into Jerusalem. As we drove into the city, Hezi played “The Holy City” over the loud speaker. It was pretty cool.
Thus ends another full day. I think Bill is going to post this tomorrow instead of tonight – so maybe there’ll be 2 posts tomorrow……good night, all!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I don’t even know where to begin……
We started at the Jordan River today. It really isn’t very wide near here – kinda like Massey Creek. Hezi sometimes refers to it as the “pee-pee” river. J I can say I have forever left a part of “myself” there in the river as my name tag accidently came unclipped and floated away…..Maybe thousands of years from now someone will excavate it and think I was a princess?
There are no words to describe our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The company we went with are Messianic Jews and are the only Christian boat company on the sea. While the other companies maybe show you how to cast nets, fish, etc., our guide led us in singing several worship songs (in both English and Hebrew – how cool is that?) after Craig talked to us about Jesus taking the disciples to the Gentile side of the sea – some place they really didn’t want to go. He often takes us places we don’t want to go for our own good today. Powerful stuff. The weather was perfect and it was just awesome – a word I try to reserve only for when I’m talking about God. I could have stayed there all day!
We also visited the spot that might have been where Jesus gave us the Beatitudes and Craig talked again to us – this time from Matt. 5, of course! We stopped at the Church of the Multiplication. While both of these places were nice – and Craig’s teaching was excellent – they were too “showy” for me. Give me the wide open spaces any day!
Lunch was fun at a place where you could get “St. Peter’s fish.” The owner was VERY colorful and attentive to us. They even put a denarius in the mouth of Duane Woods’ fish. J

After lunch we drove through an Arab town (again – stark contrast to Jewish towns as far as cleanliness) on the way to Mt. Pecipice (sp?) that overlooks Jezerel Valley. Breathtaking vistas and Craig taught from Luke 4. Mt Tabor was in the distance.
Next stop – a YMCA in Arab Nazareth (Christians) that have reconstructed the village of Nazareth. It was interesting and helpful to a visual person like me to help me understand what it was like back in Jesus’ day (rather than an archeological dig where you have to use your imagination).
About half of the group is going into Tiberias after supper tonight to do some touristy kind of shopping and/or get antibiotics. Several of us are puny – flushed, chills, coughing up colored junk, swollen glands – you get the picture. I started my antibiotic tonight for all of the above reasons and more. Thanks, Scott! I didn’t go to supper and am headed to bed soon. I’m exhausted and we have another full day tomorrow. Please pray for all of us that we get enough rest and are healthy! There is just so much we want to see and do and we want to be healthy in the process!
If any of you are even remotely thinking of ever visiting Israel – think no more and just start saving and planning! You will NOT regret it.
Tomorrow – Jerusalem! Good night!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday, Nov. 25, 2011

I can’t even begin to describe all of the places and things we’ve seen today. We woke up to a beautiful day here in the kibbutz we’re staying. I couldn’t believe how cool it was to wake up with the Sea of Galilee right in our backyard! J
Our day began at Bet She’an. What an amazing archeological site! I’m still wrapping my mind around all we saw there. From there we drove north to the Tel of Dan. Along the way we saw such remarkable agriculture bananas, olives, fruit, corn, etc. K/J – if either of you are reading this – I couldn’t help but think of how this might have been a part of Israel that Dad would have enjoyed. The Israelis are master agriculturists. They have really made the land flourish. The other thing about the fields I couldn’t help but notice as we went further north was rocky fields. Remember clearing rocks out of the fields so Dad could plant? We had NOTHING to complain about! I took some pictures out the window, but it doesn’t do it justice. It also gave me a new appreciation for the parable of the soils.
Our next stop was the Temple of Pan. Craig talked to us about Christ telling Peter He would build His church and the gates of hell (death) would not prevail against it. ML – Craig talked some about Peter and the book of Acts so tell Marsha and the girls at BSF that I thought of them while here in Israel! J
Our guide, Hezi, is a war hero of 3 Israeli wars. He took us to Golan Heights next and shared much about the war of 1967 – fascinating stuff! We walked through a bunker, found old bullets and heeded “Danger – minefield” signs.
After lunch of falfal and cheese pitas for most of us, we stopped at an olive factory – interesting stuff – and then home. I’ve left out a lot, but it’s time for supper. Also – I feel like I’m not doing the description of the day justice b/c I keep wanting to use the word “amazing.” But as Bill says – we’ve been saying “WOW” a LOT every day here. It’s hard to describe all we’re experiencing. Hezi and Craig are wonderful tour guides and really make the place come alive.
So – I’ll close. Tomorrow we start with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee – can’t wait! It’ll be another “WOW” day. J