Today is Friday and I am now into my 2nd month in Israel.
Left Ma’ale Levona on the 7:30AM bus. It seems as if 20% of those on any bus are carrying machine guns. Sort of makes you feel secure. I am told that in any group of soldiers, one of them is the “designated shooter”. This means that in a cafe or restaurant, all the soldiers will lay their guns under the table, or stack them in a corner. All but one. His job is to keep his gun in his lap with his finger on the trigger. Sort of like a “designated driver” who lets everyone else drink, but is responsible for staying sober to protect the rest.
Arrived back at the apartment in Jerusalem around 9AM where I unpacked and washed clothes. Danny had to come to Jerusalem, so we rode the bus together. He had to get off the bus before I did, and immediately I realized he had left his hat on the seat. A few blocks later, Danny called me and asked me to take his hat on to the apartment. Just now he came to the apartment to retrieve his hat and brought with him something I have never before seen in Israel: a Dr. Pepper! He must have looked long and hard for that. Very thoughtful…
Spent most of the week in Ma’ale Levona working with Danny on his travel business. The weather has turned hotter than I’ve ever experienced in the Land in all the years I’ve been coming. Several old timers have said the same. Even the breeze is hot!
How wonderful to be in a Land where everything you see is something described in the Bible. For instance, from Ma’ale Levona I can look out on the countryside which is exactly described in Judges 21:19—
“The annual feast of the Lord is now being held at Shiloh. (Shiloh lies north of Bethel, east of the highway that runs from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Levona).”
This scripture even goes to lengths to describe where Shiloh is located. Since “Ma’ale” means “heights”, I am on the hill overlooking “Levona” described in the scripture above. I can see Shiloh just below me and Bethel and Shechem in the distance.
Danny and I have been working on a plan to help groups visit Israel. We are going to offer a discount of between $1,000-$2,000 on anyone’s tour when they gather between 20 & 35 people to join them on one of our “Israel Experiences”. We have been working on a 12 day & an 18 day tour. We aren’t calling them “tours” since they aren’t typical tours. They really are more of an “experience” than a tour, especially for families.
Yossi is too busy right now to continue work on his book. We spent a couple of hours last night discussing what to do next and came up with some ideas which we will talk more about when he has the chance. So, for now, I’ve turned my attention to helping Danny, who has offered to share in his profit if we are successful in bringing groups over here.
Danny is currently directing a tour, so when he goes out to touch base with the group and the tour guide, I have been going with him. This particular group includes a number of very small children (ie. in diapers). In this heat, groups with really small children are the ones that make a guide earn his pay.
Yesterday, we left Ma’ale Levona for the north to see if we could find some war damage. We passed the “trampiata” on our way out of the community. Remember that the trampiata is actually the last bus stop in every Israeli community. Individuals stand there hoping to catch a ride from someone going their way. If they can catch a ride before the bus comes, they don’t have to pay for a bus ride. Israelis do a lot of “tramping” (hitchhiking). If you are driving a car past a trampiata, you are expected to stop and tell everyone where you are going so they can go with you if they are going in that direction.
Visited the tour group on the way north and saw a baby camel. Had to take this picture. We drove past Mount Tabor, site of the battle between the Judge, Deborah, and Jabin (this interesting story is told in Judges, chpater 4. Read it while looking at the picture). It is also the probable site of Jesus’ transfiguration, where Peter told Jesus he wanted to build 3 tabernacles: one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus (see Matthew 17 for the story).
Stopped in Tiberias, built by the Romans in honor of Emperor Tiberias, on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. Even in Israel, most signs are in English. Danny had wanted to show me some possible accommodations for future tours, so, since we were at the Sea of Galilee, anyway, we visited some places:    for next year’s tours. This last picture shows some interesting areas, in spite of the haze on the Sea of Galilee: On the opposite shore there is a low hill. This is the hill where Jesus drove the pigs out of the Gaderene demoniac and into the water (story in Matthew eight).
Drove north to Safed (pronounced “sfat”, like “fat” with an s). This is Israel’s “holy city”, determined to be so because several ancient Jewish “sages” are buried in caves on the mountain sides. People visit, and pray at, these burial sites. Sort of like if the Catholic church designated a single city as holy because it contained the burial sites of several of its “saints”, where people could visit and pray. The city is home to two of the largest Hassidic sects; but, interestingly enough, it is also Israel’s main artists’ colony.
As we approached Safed, we noticed a lot of scorched earth where Katusha rockets had landed in the surrounding forest. When we entered the town, we found an apartment building where a rocket had entered the top floor apartment and exited by the opposite wall. We spoke to the lady who was in the apartment when the rocket hit. She said she and her husband were sitting in their living room when, BANG!, a rocket came through the room. It was a good thing it didn’t end up in the room, because this kind of rocket is supposed to explode on contact releasing thousands of bb’s to do as much damage to human flesh has possible.
On the way back to Ma’ale Levona, a belt in Danny’s car broke and we had to limp back to Tiberias where we spent a couple of hours in a repair shop.
Headed home, first driving south along the Jordan River Valley road. The sun was going down over the mountains to our right. We drove most of the length of the Jordan River which was just to our left. We drove past the area where the prophet, Elisha, lived; and also past the area of ancient “Tishbe” (where the prophet, Elijah, the Tishbite, was from). We were a stone’s throw from the border with Jordan most of the time. The mountains in the background of the picture labeled “Tishbe” are the Mountains of Gilboa (2 Samuel 1:21), and are across the Jordan River in the country of Jordan.
Passed a young, Orthodox Jewish woman, carrying a baby, tramping alone on this rather deserted highway in the early evening hours. This is not unusual here in spite of its danger. Could she be harmed? Yes. Does the government frown on tramping alone? Yes. Is it illegal? No. People here would rather be killed outright than allow their enemies to think they had been frightened in some way. These people are stubborn, especially in the face of danger!
Stopped for gas and this donkey came running up like a dog looking for a handout. Just had to take its picture. Then we headed east toward Ma’ale Levona. Since I love the desert, I took the following pictures as the sun set:    . Seeing these pictures, you get a better understanding of Jesus’ words, “…the rocks would cry out…” (Luke 19:40). That would be a lot of crying out! The last picture shows the high mountains of Edom across the Dead Sea, in the country of Jordan.
I’m still looking for a good cup of coffee. Was told that Starbucks opened up in Jerusalem and went out of business. I guess people have to know what a good cup of coffee is before someone can sell them one. Does anyone out there want to give it a try? I have some good names in mind: How about “Holy Grounds” or even “Wholly Ground”? A good steak place might be called “Holy Cow”.
Haven’t heard how the Weavers are doing. Did Craig get the job?