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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day in Israel

Shalom from Israel! Another full day – and we’ve figured out part of the problem with our computer – it thinks it’s Hebrew!  :0 It lets me type in English, but everything around it is in Hebrew and we can’t seem to get it to change so we can read prompts. You computer geeks out there probably know the solution….but we don’t and neither do any of those with us.
We started with MASADA – and yes, we CLIMBED every step of it and EARNED (well, o.k. – we bought it – but we earned it) the t-shirt! We shouldn’t have to ever work out again. J One of the highlights hiking up was meeting Israeli kids coming down. Many would stop us and ask us where we were from, ask to take their picture with us, chant “U.S.A.” – it was really fun. J
MASADA was followed by hiking the up to the middle falls at En Geddi (where David cut part of Saul’s robe off in a cave). It was an oasis in a dry and barren land.
We stopped at AHAVA – and yes, Becca, I bought you lots of Dead Sea lotions. J
Lunch at Qumeran and Hezi telling/showing us about the Dead Sea scrolls. Lots of caves!
We experienced a little of the Arab culture when we were in Jericho. MUCH different than areas controlled by Israelis. We saw a Zaccheus tree, shopped at a Hebron glass place, saw the possible site of the mountain Jesus was tempted on and experienced Palestinian and Israeli checkpoints.
We are now at  kibbutz Ma’aran on the south shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a long but interesting day. Tomorrow is Galilee, starting early with Bet She’an.
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving – we did!

Monday thru Wednesday happenings.

Shalom from Israel!
I apologize for not getting any posts out earlier. We (and most of the others with us) have had great difficulty getting any kind of internet service. I’m not techy enough to know exactly what the difficulty is – just that that is how it has been.
We are having the time of our lives! Sandy – if you read this – I’m thinking Israel should be the 2013 destination for that year’s WOG retreat. I haven’t mentioned it to Kathy yet – but I’m sure she would agree!
We had an uneventful plane trip Mon./Tues. meeting up with others in Philadelphia and then our close friends, Debbie and David, in Tel Aviv. We stayed Tues. evening in a Beer Sheva hotel.
We started at 8 this morning and it has been a full day. The first stop was the historical site of Beer Sheva itself – “the 7th well.” “Hezi,” our guide is great and combined with Craig’s teaching – well, the place just came alive! “Wandering in the desert” has taken on a whole new significance for me.
Our next 2 stops revolved around Ben Gurion – his kibbutz, followed by his burial place. What an inspiring leader he was! I love how he loved his wife and how he really lived what he preached. A sweet bonus was getting to watch some Jewish second graders go through some kind of ceremony and receive the book of Gensis – complete with Jewish singing and dancing. J
Following this, we had lunch in a Bedouin’s tent and learned a little about their way of life. Makes me appreciate my own life a whole lot more! Next we stopped at a crater. The vistas here defy my limited vocabulary – desolate and yet breath-taking.
We arrived at the Dead Sea around 3. Again, gorgeous scenery – but I couldn’t really appreciate it driving down the winding, twisting road. I was VERY glad to arrive and get both feet on solid ground again – and NOT barf before that happened!
The Dead Sea itself is all that I imagined it to be with one exception – note to self: if you ever come here again DON’T dry shave your legs BEFORE getting in the sea. Ouch – the salt was misery! Duh! We got some fun pictures – the classic “reading World magazine while floating about” featuring Bill. The water was a little chilly so we didn’t stay real long, choosing instead to relax in the indoor, heated pools – both of Dead Sea water and another that was fresh water.
Meals have been a little more healthy than American food and pretty good for the most part. At any rate, we’re not going hungry.:)
I need to wrap this up. Tomorrow – MASADA! We start early and other stops include En Gadi, Qumran, and Galilee. Any of this sound familiar, Becky K.? I’ve thought of you often here!
Happy Thanksgiving to all – especially our families. We love you and wish you could be here with us! I hope to have better internet connections in the future so my next posts won’t be as long.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We're here!

We arrived safely in Beer Sheva, and we are ready to see what adventures God has in store for us. Thank you all for your continued prayers!