Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday 2/18/08. We had a very nice trip to the northern area of Israel. Thursday when we left it was pouring down rain & did this most of the day. We had no umbrellas so got a little wet. Our first stop was on the way to Haifa at a McDonalds for a pit stop & a treat. To me & most of us in the USA this is not a “treat” but to the Lehman’s this is great. This was only the second time they had been to a McDonalds since arriving in Jerusalem. They got 2 fries, 2 milkshakes & 2 coffees. It was approximately $5.00 for just the fries. The sounds of ecstasy that went on in the van as they were being consumed were unbelievable. We then drove to Haifa which is on the North Eastern coast of Israel. We visited the church where Elijah hide in a cave then drove out to Mt Carmel where he met with the prophets of Baal. (I Kings 18) There is church there also with an altar built of 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. While we were walking around, our Elijah attracted a lot of attention when they heard us calling him Elijah. A group that was inside the church wanted to have their picture taken with him at the altar. Then when we were outside a group from Indonesia wanted their picture with him and also wanted to hold him. He is a very friendly little guy & not shy. He smiled for the cameras & let them hold him. He attracts a lot of attention anywhere he goes. It was so rainy & foggy we were unable to see all the places you are to be able to see when on the roof top but it was still nice to see Mt. Carmel. We had planned to see the Botanical Gardens in Haifa but due to the rain we drove on to Nazareth which is a little south west of Haifa. We stayed in a hostel, Fauzi Azar, which is an old home built by a very wealthy business man in Nazareth. He has died but his great granddaughter runs the hostel. We did not have all the comforts of home but it was a great experience. That afternoon we walked down town to “old town” and just looked around. We stopped at this little pita pizza place & we each had one of the best pizzas we ever had. We were cold & wet & they were warm & SO good. We had one again Friday for lunch. That evening we had dinner at Tishreen’s with 7 other Mennonites volunteering in Nazareth. The food was delicious. Friday we went to Nazareth Village which is a village constructed to look like it did when Jesus lived there. The Mennonites originally started it, but it is now operated by a board of directors from different organizations. That afternoon we drove to Tiberias along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called his first apostles, James & John and Peter & Andrew. We drove through Cana just outside Nazareth where Jesus preformed his first miracle (John 2:1-11) but saw no sign or anything marking this site. We tried to get a boat ride on the sea but at this time of year you have to be with a group or pay an exorbitant price. We tried both Friday & Saturday but with no success. We visited the church marking were Jesus fed the 5,000 (Matt 1:13-21, Luke 9: 10-15), the Mount of the Beatitudes (Matt 5) where there is a church built by Mussolini. They are both on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. It is beautiful there & very peaceful this time of the year but in the summer it is a busy resort area. We drove to Capernaum but didn’t get out & walk around or visit the church as the kids were tired & had seen there limit of churches. That evening we ate dinner at a Fish restaurant. This area is known for a fish called “St Peter’s Fish” which is to be excellent. This is thought to be the kind of fish the apostles fished for in the sea. Fish in Jerusalem & surrounding areas is not good, very fishy tasting & very expensive so was special that they could get fish. Ryan, Heather, Tayllor & I ordered the fish. They served the whole fish minus the insides but a little daunting when you see it laying on the plate in front of you. Tayllor’s eyes & mouth opened a little larger than normal when she saw it. It was excellent & we all cleaned off the bones. That night we drove back to Nazareth to stay & then left Sat morning for our hotel in Tiberias. It was clean & had a balcony facing the Sea of Galilee. Hotels, even in the off season, are very expensive for a mission budget. Since this was Shabbot there was very little open to get anything to eat but we did find a McDonald’s so once again the Lehman’s enjoyed the fare. They serve a somewhat different menu then in the USA but the fries are the same. We drove up north toward Lebanon & Syria to see Nimrod’s Fortress (not built by Nimrod). It was quite impressive & not an easy walk through it. You could see snow capped mountains in that area. We then drove around the other side of the Sea of Galilee which was a beautiful drive. That evening we ate a Lebanese restaurant as Shabbot ended at sun down & many of the stores & restaurants opened. We had a light fare of bean soup, pickles & pita. After dinner I treated us to ice cream cones in honor of Pappy Beale who would have done the same. This treat is not very plentiful in Israel & is the first I have had since arriving. I had toasted coconut also in honor of Pappy Beale which was pretty good. The girls would have liked more for breakfast the next morning but settled for pastries. There is no such thing as going out for breakfast here & getting pancakes, toast, eggs or any of our traditional breakfast foods. They don’t make any of that here. Of course sausage or bacon are also not acceptable. Heather has found a market where she can get bacon for a price but it is not like ours.
Sunday morning I went out on the balcony for my devotions & the Lord did such a neat thing for me & later all of us. The Bible reading in Our Daily Bread for that morning was in Ps 89:1-8 but I read further & in vs 12 it reads “You created the north & the south, Mount Tabor & Mount Hermon sing for joy at your name.” As I looked up to the north I could see Mount Hermon with the snow on it & the sun shinning on it making it look like it was glowing. The two days prior it was too hazy to see it, but on this particular morning the view was very clear. It was such a neat experience & a blessing the Lord had for me that day. It’s the little things like that that make me realize how much the Lord loves us & cares about us. If that scripture would have been suggested on any other day it would not have blessed me & us as it did on Sunday morning. When reading the Bible now, I can actually visualize the sites talked about & they seem so much more alive.
We then went to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. (Matt 3:13-17) There is no church but 3 different areas where you can be baptized for a fee. You have to pay 9 shekels & they give you a white robe that needs to be worn to be baptized. You can also buy water from the Jordan in a bottle or fill one of your own. When we first arrived we were the only ones there & it was quite & peaceful. Fifteen minutes later 2 bus loads of people arrived.
We then left for home in Jerusalem & the closer we came the feeling of oppression grew. Ryan asked us “Are we ready for this again?” You feel none of that oppression in the north or outside of the greater Jerusalem area. The Palestinians & Israelis live together, work together, and ride the same streets with significantly less conflict. Please continue to pray for both peoples as both are living in blindness & bondage to Satan. Pray for the Lehman’s as they live with this daily & work with the conflict this bondage is causing.
We are to get snow again tonight & more than we had 2 weeks ago. If we do, this will be more than they have had in many years. Take care....I will be leaving for home 28 days from today.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday morning, February 11, 2008. Sorry I have not been able to update my blogspot since the first one but Heather & Ryan had a large data base due this past Friday so she was working almost nonstop on the computer. It is now completed so I have access to the computer for awhile this morning.

I left off telling you I had just returned from the day in Hebron on Saturday, Feb 2. Hebron is the second oldest town in the Bible with a population of 400,000. It was an unforgettable day. My emotions went from sad to angry & all the emotions in between. Hebron is a town in the West Bank which is to be Palestinian, but there is an Israeli settlement in the middle of the town which is off limits to the Palestinians. It is to be under Palestinian control, but the Israeli military is there to “protect the Jewish settlers”. They patrol the streets, even the Palestinian streets as well as the settlement area. There are Palestinian police, but they are not permitted to carry any weapons.

All roads except one have been blocked or destroyed going into Hebron so the traffic in & out can be controlled by the Israelis. They may decide to block that road for the day so no one is permitted to enter or leave even to go to work. The Palestinians must have a work permit or a type of citizen card that permits them to leave the area. Hebron is divided into H1 & H2. H1 is to be for Palestinians & H2 for only Israelis. Even though we were on a tour bus with Eastern Mennonite College we had to park the bus in H1 & walk. It had snowed approximately 4-5 inches in Hebron when we had snow & it was melting. There are no sewage drains so there was 1-4 inches of water running in the streets. There was still quite a bit of snow on the sides of the streets as they have no snow plows & no snow shovels. They were using hoes, pieces of metal & whatever they could find to try & clear the sidewalks. We walked through the market places on way to our first stop, CPT, Christian Peacemakers Team. This is the group Ryan came here with over a year ago. They talked to us about what they do & the history of the organization. It was very informative & a lot of information which I will not go into at this time. There are many oppressive facts that make you both sad & angry at the injustice that is present in not only Hebron but throughout the area. We went up on the roof top & just across the street were 3 soldiers watching us & the area. We were not permitted to take any pictures in their direction or toward the military area. These soldiers walk up & down the streets patrolling the areas.

After leaving CPT we walked through another market place to where we had to go through an Israeli check point. On the way there I was hit by 2 snow balls, once in the neck & the other on the side of the head. This was not malicious, but our group joked they may have singled me out as I was the oldest person in the group. We got through the check point with no problems. The tour guide was a Palestinian but he was also approved. We had to walk through an Israeli settlement area (Jewish) on our way to the Mosque. We were only 100 yards past the security guards when one of them came after us telling us we would have to turn around & leave. We told him we had permission from his superior to be here but he kept insisting we could not be here. Two Israeli settlers had come out their houses (like condos) & told us we had to leave. He was not very nice about it either. The EMU leader, Lynford told them again we had permission but he would go back to the gate & ask again. While he & the tour guide were back at the gate the settler went into his home, got his gun & came out after us. He again threatened us. We remained calm stating we would wait till our leader came back & if the superior said we had to leave we would. When Lyford came back he told us to starting walking, keep moving but watch our backs. Heather & I were right in front of the settler but we kept walking but did not look back. After about 2 blocks he returned to his home. Two blocks later we were stopped again by police patrol in a jeep & they interrogated the tour guide again. When the police knew he could do nothing about us being there he gunned the jeep driving through a large mud puddle right beside us splashing us with water & mud. We did get to go into the mosque where the burial caves are under ground for Abraham, Sarah & Isaac. There is a mosque on one side & a synagogue on the other. Walking from the mosque to the bus we went through a section of markets where the settlers live above the Palestinian shops. There is netting with a lot of garbage on it above the narrow street because the settlers dump garbage and even feces out on the shops at people walking below. On the way to the bus Heather & I were a few of the last of the group. I felt something pushing me in the upper back shoulder area & when I looked there was a soldier with his gun barrel on my arm pushing me out of the way. I was in his way. Just a few yards ahead of me coming in my direction was a Palestinian women. The same soldier went up to her & put the gun barrel in her chest to make her move out of his way. I had some un-Christ-like thoughts which I had to confess. Our last stop of the day was at the Hebron glass factory where I made some Christmas purchases. Heather and I went to dinner in Bethlehem on the way home that evening. Heather has been great at letting me talk through my anger, sadness feelings of oppression & other emotions I have been dealing with since arriving.
Feb 2/3…Sunday’s church service was a joint service with the Arabic speaking Lutheran church & the English Lutherans. It was interesting & he had a good sermon. The Arabic preacher spoke for 15 minutes in Arabic then preached it again in English. After church we drove to Jericho. All of you know the story of Joshua & the battle of Jericho but it is also the area where Christ went for 40 days to fast & pray & then Satan came to temp Him, Matt 4:1-11. We took a cable car up to the Mount of Temptation where there is a monastery there now. We saw Elisha’s spring which is little more than a sewage drain now. We also saw some more ruins of a palace. Tues 2/5 Heather, Elijah & I went north towards Tel Aviv to 2 different monasteries & also a convent. It was so peaceful & just nice to get away from all the conflict you see everyday in Jerusalem. There are green mountains in that area & just beautiful scenery. This past Sat we went to Bethlehem for the afternoon. Heather & Ryan met with EMU to share what MCC is doing here. The girls wanted to show me the Church of the Nativity so we did a quick tour of it prior to their meeting. I am going on a tour of Bethlehem on 2/19 so will get to see more of the tourist sights in Bethlehem then. We are leaving for the Nazareth area on Thurs 2/14 & return on Sunday 2/17.
People ask me if I am enjoying my time here & it is not easy to give an answer. I am enjoying the time with my family but other things are very difficult to see & deal with. It is not a vacation but it is what I have on my written journal “My Jerusalem Journey”. I will update my blog again after we return from Nazareth.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Beginning

2/2/08…..Hello from cold & snowy Jerusalem I feel like I am in western PA not Jerusalem with the weather this past Wed. & Thurs. Tues it was cold & windy with the weather forecast for snow Wed & Thurs. It was predicted to be the worst snow storm in 7 yrs. which happened. Last year they had snow 2 different days but it only laid on the ground for 5 hrs. We had enough snow Wed & Thurs to make 2 snow men & have a snow ball fight. Ryan, the kids, & two girls visiting here from Jordan played outside Thurs morning. We have pictures to prove it. This was Elijah’s first experience with snow & he wasn’t sure what he thought of it at first but when it was time to come in he cried. Wed it was in the mid 20’s & Thurs in the high 20’s to low 30’s. On Wed when it was so cold the furnace quit & we could see our breath in the air. They have a small space heater which we put in the kitchen/living room area which gave some warmth. It was fixed about 3:45 p.m. & we started to get heat but the bedrooms were still pretty cold even when we went to bed. Their houses are not built for this type of weather so they are not well insulated & a lot of air comes in around the windows. The curtains actually blow from the wind. By Fri 2/1 the snow was almost gone & it was a little warmer.

My trip here was good with not problems. I had a 13 ½ hr lay-over in Amsterdam but it went ok also. I bought a membership for 2 mos in the Northwest World Club so can use their lounge & get food & drink as much as you want for the member ship fee. The chairs were very comfortable so I could sleep several times. The Lehman’s were at the airport in Tel Aviv at 2:30 Sat morning 1/19 to meet me. We laughed, cried, hugged, kissed & talked all at once. It was GREAT! Elijah seemed to recognize me as he would look at me, then giggle, then hug & kiss me, then call me Nana. He didn’t want me out of his sight the first several days. He has changed so much. He is walking of course, but he is talking so much. There are not many words he will not try to say & he repeats what you say. His comprehension is amazing for 19 months old. The girls have also really grown a lot in 5 mos. Tayllor is only ½-1 inc shorter than me & Ellena seems taller. Ryan & Heather have not grown physically but in wisdom, strength & discernment they have grown dramatically. They both amaze me. It is a very different life over here but they have seemed to adapt very well in a short time. Just knowing how to get around the area can be quite confusing but Heather can find her way anywhere. She drives more than Ryan on a daily basis but I’m sure he does very well also. The actual driving can be well…..let’s just say scary to say the least. I always thought I had pretty good driving savvy but don’t think I would want to drive here. There are no rules except to stop at a red light & wear a seat belt, other than that it seems like anything goes.

Everything here seems to be very expensive. Food is outrageous in price, about 2-3 times what we pay in the states. You make almost everything from scratch although there are some things you can buy prepared or boxed but it is even more expensive. The fruits & vegetables are beautiful and very good. They are the only thing that is reasonable in price. Most women I know would have a difficult time trying to cook in her kitchen (I am) but I m trying. Will probably make a trip to a kitchen store next week to get some things I call essentials. Our way of eating is also different…satisfying but different. I have eaten their equilvant to our American hamburger…the Palestinian Shwarma. It is a pita filled with marinated meat, most times turkey or chicken, red cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, spicy pickles & french fries with a yogurt dressing poured over the vegetables. They are very good. They eat plain yogurt over everything. I haven’t completely adopted that tradition yet but I am trying it. The Lehman’s love it. I have had a falafel which is a lot like the shwarma but made with crushed chick peas rolled into little balls & then deep fried. These are put in the pita with lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, cukes & fries & also the yogurt. Pickles are also an option with this sandwich but I’m not real fond of their pickles.

I have seen some of the traditional tour sites but have many more to see. This past Sat 1/27 we drove down the Jericho road to the Dead Sea area. We visited Masada which is located at the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is a high flat mountain but not large area on top where King Herod the Great built a palace in 3 B. C. It was later used by Jewish people who escaped the fall of Jerusalem by the Romans. The Romans decided to destroy this group of Jewish people so attack them. The night before the day the Jewish people knew the Romans would enter their homes & slaughter them they decided to commit mass suicide. The next morning the Romans found 700 dead Jews except for 2 women & several children who had refused suicide & hide in a cistern. The palace ruins are still there today with many partial walls still standing. It was very interesting. A cable car takes you to the top or there is a path you can walk. Our intention was to ride up & walk down but it had been raining off & on & the rock steps & stones were slippery so they closed the path & we rode both ways. It was cold & rainy off & on that day which we were not expecting in the desert. The Dead Sea is beautiful with very blue & clear water. It is receding at an alarming rate because the Israelis are diverting the water for projects of their own. We planned to swim but the water & air was too cold. We did walk down to the water & put our hands in it. The Lehman’s went swimming in it last fall. The salt is on the rocks at the waters edge about 1-2 inc thick. The small stones on the beach are also white with salt. You can see salt swirling around in the water at places. We tried to find the site Sodom & Gomorraha but we apparently did not make the correct turn. We then went to the En Gedi where David hide in the caves from Saul. The story is in I Samuel 24:1-5. Saul went into the cave where David & his men were hiding to “relieve himself” & David came up behind him & cut off a piece of his robe. It is a beautiful oasis in the Judean Desert with tropical vegetation, high rocks & water falls. In Ps 104:18 the Bible talks about the wild goats (Ibex) & the conies (rock hyrax). We saw the conies everywhere. They look like a cross between our ground hog & a large rat. About 4:00 p.m. on our way down from where we were walking a herd of the wild goats came through heading to the places for the night. We saw approximately 40. You could get fairly close to them as they are used to people I’m sure. In 2 weeks we plan to go to the Nazareth area for 3 days.

Jerusalem in some ways is what I expected but in other ways it is very different. My image of Israel/Palestine is of a serene holy peaceful place but that it not what I have seen. The oppression of the Palestinian people is very visible & almost tangible. When you see the Wall, the check points & the soldiers it is very sad, unfair & so VERY WRONG. The conditions they have to live under are inhumane & in America we would probably the same way some of them have reacted, with violence. We in the states react & cry “unfair” for a lot less. Many of the Palestinian people do not react with violence but with resigned or a defeated attitude. Many of them live without hope.

At the check points I can get through fairly easy because I am a US citizen but that is not so with the Palestinian people. If you live in the walled city of Bethlehem you can not leave the city, which is not very large, unless you have a work pass or a special permit. To work you must be at the check point gate by 4:30 to endure the harassment you may receive when leaving. Bethany is just down the hillside from the Mount of Olives but they are not permitted to come into Jerusalem. Remember these areas I am talking about are all to be Palestinian but the Israelis control it. The Wall & settlements are very real & very threatening to the people. To a lot of them life is not worth much. There was a group of Christian people here last week who when they came were not quite sure how they felt about the situation. They were here for just 3 days & felt very different by the time they left. It is one thing to see & hear it on T.V. (what our government wants us to see & hear) & very different to see, hear & feel it.

On Saturday 1/26 on our way to the Dead Sea area we passed a number of Bedouin groups. They live in shacks put together with tin, cardboard, wood or whatever they can find. I could not stop thinking & praying for these people the 2 days it was very cold & snowy here wondering how they were doing.

Today Sat 2/2, Heather & I just returned from a tour to Hebron with EMU who is here for 3 weeks. I need time to process everything I saw & experienced there before putting it in words. It is a day I will never forget as long as I live. I experienced a small taste of what the Palestinian people live with each day of their lives. Most of the day I was on the verge of tears for these people.

It is Saturday evening & I am physically tired but more emotionally tired. I will write more later.