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.

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