Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Welcome to Bethlehem

We headed off to Bethlehem on Day nine. The Welchs came with us. The first sign that this might be a little, um...different, than the other days was the fact that we followed a UN vehicle to the border of this Palestinian territory we know and love as the "Little Town of Bethlehem." 

Next, we were welcomed by this art...

When we passed through the border, we were met by a friendly Palestinian man, who Stewart decided to trust as our tour guide for the day.  Hey, why not hire the first smiling Palestinian face you see?  As it were, this man was a Palestinian Christian.  He reminded us several times throughout the day that, "In Palestine, there is 50% Muslim, 50% Christian.  There are NO JEWS!"  I suppose that if I were living in a Palestinian state, I would probably not be too terribly happy with Israel, either.  

First, he took us to a part of town to explain to us how the lines that were drawn have been encroached on by Israel, redefined due to the need to access spiritual locations.  The domed church in the background had something to do with Rachel's tomb.  I admit, I wasn't really paying attention because Elizabeth stayed back in the car with sleeping little Will, and I'll be real here: I didn't feel safe, and I was pretty sure Elizabeth and Will were about to be the next victims of a Palestinian brawl.

Again, this key had something to do with the Pope's visit to Bethlehem, but I was too scared to pay attention to the significance of it.

On to Jewish Settlements...(as I understand them).
See the apartment looking buildings in the background of this picture?  Yes.  That is a "Jewish Settlement."  It is WITHIN Palestinian Territory.  Israel decided to encroach on Palestine and "choke it out" by building and settling it with Jews imported from Europe.  As I understand it, these Jews are paid by Israel to live in these settlements.  Then, Israel "redefined" the border by building a road and an electric fence to keep the Palestinians "in Palestine."  To Israel's defense, they believe that "It is ALL Israel" to begin with, so they are simply reclaiming their God given land.

One of those steeples in the picture is the supposed place where the Lamb of God was born.

The hill in the background is where Herod's Temple once stood.  The ruins in the foreground are where Herod's "house" would have been.  There was a secret escape for Herod to get from the top of the mountain down to his house.

Here's little Lydia, Stewart and Elizabeth's daughter, on top of the mountain where Herod's Temple once stood.

A replica of Herod's Temple.

The view from the top was amazing!  The sweet, easy breeze of the blossoming olive trees below was a sweet, sweet smell!

One of Bethlehem's only means of monetary gain are their olive products.  They make and sell olive wood sculptures and try to export their olive oil.

Our new Palestinian friend took us to a fantastic restaurant for lunch, where he ordered what seemed to be "one of everything" on the entire menu!  

Here we are at the entrance to the church that is positioned where Jesus was born.

Such holy sites...
such tension!

I've never been so happy to see that sweet Star of David before in my LIFE!  We had made plans to go to Jericho that day, too, but when Stewart called back to Elizabeth and I in the back seat, "So, are we off to Jericho now?"  Elizabeth and I replied in unison, "NO!"  We didn't realize that there was a low level of stress and anxiety associated with our day trip to Bethlehem.  It could have been the fact that our "tour guide" was traveling at an extraordinary rate on foot, looking over his shoulder and around every corner before we got there.  I even think he paid someone to guard our car one time!  Maybe it was the fact that when school got out, the kids started throwing rocks at our car.  Or, it could have been the many,  many "death stares" shot our way throughout the corse of the day.  Then again, I may be overthinking it all...nevertheless, I was HAPPY to be back in Israel!

We all decided that we needed to "decompress" by going to the Garden Tomb, which turned out to be a great ending to a "stressful" day, and I have since learned from Elizabeth that there is a side to Bethlehem that is "softer," whatever that means!  I was totally impressed that she actually returned! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Naomi's future husband

Last night, Naomi walked up to me with a pencil and piece of paper.
Me:  "What's this all about, Naomi?"
Naomi: "I think we should make a list of things that my husband will need to be like."
Me:  "Sounds good!"

So, she got to thinking.  I have to say, I made a few suggestions, but she only included what was really important to her.  Here goes:

1~He must love God.
2~He must be kind.
3~He must be nice.
4~He has to be nice to our children.
5~He has to love, respect, and serve Naomi well (that was one of mine)
6~He should be serious and have deep conversations (that was mine, too, but she emphatically agreed...the girl likes to talk)
7~He should be funny and know how to make little things in life fun (mine, too, but who doesn't like to have fun?)
8~He should be very handsome.
9~He should give her presents and take her out on dates.
10~He should give Naomi and the kids hugs and kisses.
11~He should work so Naomi can stay home with the kids.
12~Naomi would like a house that is pretty neat.
13~She would like a minivan.
14~Naomi would like triplets (2 girls, 1 boy)...she even described their rooms (that I would paint).
15~She would like her husband to lift weights and run.
16~He should be able to fix the car, mow the lawn, and she wants to rotate who take the trash out.
17~She wants to live on a lake where she can paddleboat.
18~She would also like a big boat that fits the whole family.  One where they can take lunch out on the lake to eat.
19~He should be musical.
20~He should like to travel and cook.

We will be taking applications from now until December 13th of 2032. 
Only Supermen need apply.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jerusalem~Day 8

Welcome to Jerusalem.
A place that was mentioned as far back as the days of Abraham in the Bible.
This city is the epicenter to three major faiths:
and Islam.

As soon as we entered Old Jerusalem, bells from a church began to ring. It was Sunday, after all. This all happened so quickly that I was scrambling for my camera and could only snap a few hasty pictures. A group of MONKS marched right up this alleyway, pounding their...STAFFS(?) on the ground to the beat of the march, which was concurrent with the church bell.

Welcome to Jersusalem.
A holy Christian site (more on that later).

Alleyways like this are the only "roads" in Old Jerusalem. Consequently, it is massively difficult to maneuver this town and absolutely confusing. A maze of a city if one ever existed. Unfortunately, there are also parts of town that we should not have gone to, but couldn't figure out how to NOT go there, and, once there, couldn't figure out how to LEAVE.

Shop after shop lined the streets of this grid work of a town with shop owners who tried their darndest to make a sale, offering (no doubt) the famed "tourist prices" that you would have to barter the shirt off your back and your firstborn in order to make a good deal.

But, Oh BABY! Look at this!

Welcome to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
This is where Jerusalem became confusing.
Some claim that THIS is where Jesus was crucified and prepared for burial.
(I'll write another post soon explaining why I do not subscribe to this idea)
It was an interesting place with worshipers from afar.

The domed ceiling of this grandiose church was GORGEOUS!

This slab of marble was said to be the place where Jesus' body was prepared for burial. This was a strange experience for me because people were kneeling before it and kissing it (Blarney Stone, anyone?), rubbing money on it (Lucky Rabbit's Foot, anyone?), and some were just crying. I'm not really a crier, so I just snapped some pictures of this rock. Now, before you go thinking my heart, rather than this slab, is made of marble, let me explain that Jerusalem has been absolutely LEVELED and rebuilt (at least 40 feet higher than in Jesus' days), leaving me to believe there's no way they could have known that THIS particular marble slab is THE ONE on which Jesus was lain. Aside from that, nothing about the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher lines up with Scripture.

Here's a snapshot of the Via Dolorosa~the way of the Cross.

Welcome to the Western Wall. Some know it as the "Wailing Wall."
To explain, the Western Wall is actually the Western wall of Solomon's Temple, which has been destroyed and rebuilt twice, and then destroyed again. Solomon's Temple, which is actually the Holy Temple of God, according to the Bible, is the place where God's presence rested in the Ark of the Covenant, which would have been kept in the Holy of Holies, inside the Temple. Because the Jews believe that God's actual presence still resides in the Holy of Holies, and because the Jews no longer control that area, they get as close as they can to what they believe is the Presence of God, hence, the Wailing Wall. They believe they are actually separated from God by this outer wall of the Temple. WHY? Because this is ALSO a holy site for Muslims. The Muslims, inaccurately, believe that Abraham took ISHMAEL (rather than ISAAC) to offer to God as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, on which Jersusalem now sits. The Muslims now control that place atop the Mountain, where a grandiose, gold plated, Mosque now sits...atop God's Holy Temple.

Dallas walking down to the Western Wall.

Our friend, Stewart, said that this picture encapsulates Israel. An Orthodox Jew and a young Israeli soldier pray. I'll let the picture tell the story.

The men and the women are separated at the Wall. The women's side was a lot different from the men's side. The men's side had these prayer boxes and tassels that the men tied around themselves to pray. This is, perhaps, a good time to thank Jesus for FREEDOM! "Let us THROW OFF everything that entangles us..." For this religion (Judaism) worships the same God we do, but they go through a plethora of actions (works) in order to keep in good standing with God since they are still waiting for a Messiah to come.

Paul even warned the Galatians this: "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal 5: 4)

The men's side had this whole library, too! (I'm not gonna lie. I sorta feel like I got short changed after having only been able to sit in front of the wall when Dallas got to see all these men wrapping boxes to their heads, teetering back and forth in prayer, and strapping straps to themselves)

Men with beards...

Another man with another beard...
...he must be REALLY holy.

This is the women's side of the Wall.
This was interesting, and I don't know WHY they do this, but they actually back away from the wall (I do not know how far away they have to be before they can turn around). Because I didn't know what that was all about and didn't want to offend anyone, I, too, backed away. Still, I have no idea why I did that, but 1 Cor 9: 20,21 comes to mind. It seemed like the right thing to do.

This WAS a sad place. GOD'S Temple is SUPPOSED to be there, not a MOSQUE! So, I flipped open to Revelation Chapter 21, where I read about the NEW JERUSALEM!

The Jews got one thing right!

Behind me, you can see the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock, the Mosque on top of Mount Zion, God's Holy Mountain. (please pay no attention to the massive bags under my eyes. Remember, this is day 8 of us running from roughly 6am to 11pm every day)

This is a picture of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives. Jesus ascended into Heaven from the top of this Mountain. If you look closely, you can see thousands of tombs packed onto this Mountain. People want to be buried as close to the Temple as possible.

Mourners visit a loved one. People place rocks on top of the tombs in remembrance.

The Lion's Gate.
In Jesus' time, the arched gateways into the city would have been open, and this is the gate that Jesus would have entered into the city through when he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I just love these people so much.
Our friends, Stewart, Elizabeth, Lydia and Will

One Day, there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more suffering or death or crying. For the old order of things will pass away. The NEW Jerusalem will come out of the sky, shining in glory. Yes. The latter glory of this house will be GREATER than the former!

"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."