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.