Am back in Jerusalem after saying “goodbye” to some really special families. They made me miss my own family and wish they could have been with this group.
For those interested, I will give a rundown of where we went, with pictures. (I seem to take fewer and fewer pictures now-a-days, so I don’t have many to show here). FYI, if you want to see the pictures in large format, either click on the red word(s) or wait for the thumbnail picture to load and double click on it.
For those only wanting to know what’s going on with me, personally, skip down several paragraphs. This blog may be a little on the long side. And, for those of you who don’t care about either, just click the red “X” in the right hand corner of your screen.
I will begin when I rejoined the group on the evening of their Day 8. Danny drove me into the Judean Desert and I met the group as they were finishing up visiting tel Arad (where the king of Arad first saw Moses & the tribes coming up from the south). We went from there to a Bedouin camp where the group all rode camels and ate in the tent. Got up the next morning to watch the cute camels gather around their breakfast. Question: what 4 things would you have to take with you to survive in the desert for several generations?
Day 9: we meandered northward through Hebron to visit the tombs of the Patriarchs and then to Emek Haelah, the valley where David killed Goliath. Hot and sweaty, we visited the home of one of the older Israeli homeschool families. The mother had invited several other homeschoolers and we all ate dinner and fellowshipped. Then it was on to spend the first night in Jerusalem.
Day 10: Long, hot day. Got up early and walked to the Old City where we went down through the archaeological dig against the Western (Wailing) Wall, walking the entire length of the wall underground to see the construction work of Solomon and Herod. Very cool. Then we walked to the City of David and saw where his palace stood and walked the length of Hezekiah’s Tunnel (water was cold. brrr). At the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the newly discovered Pool of Siloam (artist’s rendering) where Jesus healed the blind man. We saw everything in Jewish Jerusalem, but were denied entrance to the Temple Mount because it was Ramadan. That night we decided to take a walk to the Wall. It’s really different seen at night.
Day 11: Visited the archaeologists who are sifting through Temple Mount rubble, looking for treasure from under the Temple Mount. It’s too long a story to tell as to why they are going through Temple Mount debris. Our group worked alongside the young archeologists and found no less than 3 ancient coins and one of the youngest girls found a lady’s pendant! Very exciting stuff. Then we visited the Children’s Memorial at the Holocaust Museum, one of the most moving places to visit in Jerusalem. Then we went to the Shuk, Jerusalem’s huge outdoor market to see the crazyess of what it is like to shop just before Shabbat begins. Here many young Ultra Orthodox Jews try to sell brochures evangelizing their particular form of Judaism and lots of people panhandle.
Day 12: It was now my time to begin as tour guide, Yoni having gone home. I walked up to Abraham’s Overlook where the bus and group met me to see Jerusalem from where Abraham first saw it. Then we went to a hill overlooking Bethlehem and discussed Jesus’ birth. Then to the Mt. of Olives where we could see the Temple Mount from the east, the Garden of Gethsemene, the Via Dolorosa and the Pool of Bethsaida, where Jesus healed the crippled man. We ended our day at the Garden Tomb.
Day 13: This morning was a surprise in that we were allowed on the Temple Mount where we walked around the Dome of the Rock. The rest of the day was spent driving to Jericho where we discussed all the fascinating history surrounding that area (Moses’ death, Joshua’s crossing, Jesus’ baptism, Elijah’s death) before heading north to the Sea of Galilee. Ended up at the National baptismal site where several of our group were baptized in the Jordan River where it flows from the Sea of Galilee.
Day 14: We stayed on the Sea of Galilee at the place where a museum holds the Jesus Boat. After seeing the boat, we went around the Sea to visit various places of Jesus’ ministry: His hometown of Capernaum where we stood in the synagogue where Jesus gave His “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood” sermon. The Mt. of Beatitudes (where we sat and read the Sermon on the Mount) and ended the afternoon taking a boat ride to the middle of the Sea where we could view all the shoreline. Some in the group danced on the deck of the ship as the captain played worship music. Check out my Chaco tan! (I know, I know: it’s time to cut the toenails). We returned to the Kibbutz and had a refreshing swim in the Sea.
Day 15: Today we went all the way north to the lush area of Dan where all the kids climbed into the great Pistachio Tree. Then on to Caesarea Phillipi where Jesus talked about the “gates of Hades”. We visited Bethsaida, where all the fisherman disciples lived. On the way we passed the River crossing where Naaman washed in the muddy Jordan and was cleansed of his leprosy. Then we rafted the Jordan River and splashed each other until we were soaked. What fun! Back to the Kibbutz for a swim in the Sea.
Day 16: Around the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee to view sites of Jesus’ ministry. Early one morning, I got up and took this picture across the Sea of Galilee. The sun is rising over the hill where Jesus healed the demon possessed man and sent the demons into the pigs who then ran down the mountain and into the Sea. The place is right next to where He fed the 4,000 gentiles (He fed the 5,000 Jews in Bethsaida). Then to ancient Tzippori and Megiddo (where 25 civilizations have been unearthed, one on top of the other). Here, our littlest traveler agreed to lie down in an authentic “manger” so we could take pictures of him. I worried about Lucas for the entire first week; but, he proved himself a game kid and kept up with all the grownups. One of the neatest things is the Canaanite, circular stone sacrificial mound found at Megiddo. After dinner at our lodgings, we had a talent show. Here is Jacie acting out a Proverb she had memorized. She won the show by acclamation.
Day 17: Took the families to Ein Harod spring and acted out the drinking of water from the place where God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300. All the kids drank the way they were supposed to drink, so they were allowed to go to battle (continue on the tour). The great swimming pool had just closed so we were bummed out about that. But, we went to the top of Mt. Carmel to tell the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal and take more pictures of the Valley of Armageddon (where it’s almost always hazy) from the western end of the valley. We spent a lot of time at Caesarea (that’s you, Jacie, on the Aquaduct). We reenacted Paul’s arrest and captivity in Caesarea from the Book of Acts. Finally we stood on the docks of Jaffa Port as the sun set and read the book of Jonah from the spot where he boarded the ship to sail away from God’s purpose.
Took everyone to the Joffa Youth Hostel for a parting dinner where everyone shared their most memorable mements. I said my goodbyes and returned to Jerusalem. There were many tears and hugs. This group had really gotten close and the kids didn’t want to part.
Re: my future. I am still in contact with people in Izmir, Turkey who want me to come and live there. They are trying to get me a position in one of the schools in town. Just a few minutes ago I sent my resume and other pertinent information to the head of the English Department at UKLA Academy in Izmir.
I am pretty ambivalent about staying in the Middle East. It would be fine with me to return to Nashville where Blake now lives. And, I would be in the States to visit James at his theater in Wisconsin Dells. Maybe even fly out to see Seth.
So, you see, whatever the Lord wants is fine by me. If Turkey, then OK. If not, that’s OK, too. But, the Lord will have to let me know soon as my Israel visa expires in about 2 weeks.