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Archive for February, 2007

Home Again

It feels unbelievable, but we are back in Sweden, a day early. On Monday, Brent’s boss in Israel, received an email from the travel agent saying that a strike was planned at the airport on Wednesday and that we might have to arrange for an extra day in Israel.  Apparently, a group of people working for the government hasn’t received their pay for a long time and so the labor unions have decided to strike across Israel beginnning on Wednesday. This included the airport. We had no idea how long the strike would last. So we called the airline and they rebooked our flight for Tuesday at no extra cost to us.

Yesterday was a mad dash to finish packing and cleaning. The boys were a bit confused with all the activity. I took them to the Science garden one last time where we met our newfound friends. It was a good break for them. Then Brent came and picked us up in the taxi and we went to the airport. I thought security was tight and long at U.S. airports. It is even tighter in the Tel Aviv airport. We went through several security checkpoints. However, I think the security is much more efficient as we went a lot faster through the airport.

My kids were wonderful on the airplanes. The entire trip went really smoothly.

 My only complaint about air travel is that it is so fast. Of course, this is necessary. But when one travels so quickly, there is no time to re-adjust to moving back to a different country or culture. I think the old days of boat or train travel gave one a transition period to absorb one’s experiences and to adjust to one’s return.

I’ll figure out this adjustment though! We went from beautiful sun and warmth to cold and snow. Trent was thrilled to see the snow and has all sorts of plans.

I still have several more blog entries about our time in Israel so please keep checking. Also, I would love to have some feedback from you if the blog was a better way to keep in touch or if you prefer occasional emails.

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What a weekend!

We made up for lost time this weekend. On Friday we visited Ceasarea. Then on Saturday, after speaking in church, we drove south to Beersheba. Today we visited Tel Beersheba (an important place for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), Massada, and the Dead Sea.

 I still have a lot to blog about but will not be able to write until our return to Sweden on Wednesday. I am meeting a friend tomorrow and we’ll go to the Science garden and then Tuesday I’ll be packing and cleaning the apartment.

So here is a preview of the next few blog entries–tune in on Thursday or Friday.

Food

Acre

Conversation with an Israeli

Herod the Great–one BAD king

Church at the Tel Aviv Branch

Beer Sheba

Hostels

The Coolest Playground in the World

Tel Beersheba–walking in the footsteps of the Patriarchs

Massada

Floating in the Dead Sea

New Vocabulary

What I didn’t Expect

I think that about covers it.

 I guess I’ll be writing from Sweden the next time!

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After church, we drove south to the Jordan River. The Israeli Tourism Board has established a baptismal site here where Christian pilgrims can be baptized, bottles of “holy water” can be purchased for an outrageous price of $4.00 per 1 ounce bottle, and you can dine in a “holy atmosphere”.

 Okay, you have to forgive my sarcasm. The Jordan River is pretty. But the site we went to was not the baptismal site of Jesus Christ. He was most likely baptized farther south near the Judean Wilderness. But this is the best place to go to see the River.

Walter wanted to go there because he is getting baptized this October. He enjoyed it and talked about the importance of baptism with me.

I have some nice pictures of Walter and Trent by the river. But again, the connection is so slow that it doesn’t upload from home.

Following our visit to the Jordan River, we drove north again, past Tiberias, to the Ancient Galilee Boat Museum. This fishing boat was found about 10-12 years ago by two fishermen brothers. It is a major archealogical find. It dates back to the first century A.D. and is an excellent example of what a fishing boat looked like during the life of Christ. The fishing boat could be similar to what Peter could have used. It could also have been used as a battling boat to fight against the Romans or could have simply been the boat of a poor fisherman trying to scrape a living.

There is evidence that the man who used the boat (or men) used over 30 different types of wood, suggesting that the owner was poor and needed to use what he had to make repairs on the boat.

Again, a picture would be much appreciated. I’ll ask Brent to post one for me. But in the meantime, I’ll see if I can find a link to a website about the boat.

http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/741407.html

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early%20History%20-%20Archaeology/The%20Roman%20Boat%20from%20the%20Sea%20of%20Galilee

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The Tiberias Branch

The Tiberias Branch meets in an apartment that was rented by a missionary couple at one time. The branch members meet in the basement. It is a tiny branch with just a few members. The primary is limited it to a couple of children. As we have seen in the Tel Aviv Branches, members speak Russian, the language the philippinos speak, and Spanish.

We were warmly greeted by the members. A powerful testimony meeting was held. Walter even felt inspired to share his testimony. It was simple and sweet. My boy is growing up and he keeps doing things that are wonderful and surprising!

We enjoyed our meetings. But we had to leave soon after the meetings so we could see a few more things before we returned to Rehovot.

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Sorry my friends, I kind of fell off the blogging bandwagon. Brooke and I both were struck with colds-a lot of chest congestion and coughing. I’m feeling a lot better, but Brooke is still pretty sick. She wheezes when she breathes.

Anyhow, Brent has been helping out a ton. Yesterday, he took the boys outside for a few hours so that Brooke and I could rest. And today, he just took the boys to a small amusement park. Brooke is sleeping and I have a little time to get caught up on my blog.

So back to food and accomodation at the Sea of Galilee. As I have mentioned before, shabbat begins on Friday evening at sundown. This means that many stores and kosher restaurants close a couple of hours before Shabbat begins.

We had just finished touring Capernaum as the sun started to set. I was feeling a bit panicky because we needed to find a restaurant that was open otherwise we would have very hungry cranky children. We were driving along the road and saw the sign for the Ancient Galilee boat museum and noticed a restaurant beside it. We pulled in and checked it out.

It was a Lebanese restaurant. It looked a little pricey, but since I was concerned about actually finding another restaurant that wasn’t closed, but we decided to eat there. And it turned out to be an excellent choice. We were given a table by a huge window and the hostess showed us where our kids could play outside (in a secure area) while we ordered our food and waited for it. The boys had so much fun playing soccer and watching the peacocks that we were walking around. I actually think they were nice to the peacocks and didn’t chase them around.

So we decided to go for the full Lebanese meal experience. Brent ordered the mezza salads–a selection of 12 different cold salads. We were given warm pita bread and delicious, salty, olives to start with while we waited for our salads. The waitress, who spoke excellent English because she lived in the U.S. for two years, brought out the tray of salads. The salads could have been an entire meal in themselves. There was tabouleh–cracked bulger wheat with tomato, parsley, oil and lemon juice (there might be more ingredients), pickled vegetables, cucumber mixed with yogurt and herbs, and my favorite–I think it was cooked, partially mashed cauliflower that had red bell pepper and then a hint of tameric as the spice that flavored it.  There were other salads that were delicious and interesting. All these we ate with pieces of warm pita bread. I ate too much of the salads because I was totally full by the time my entree came. I had these Lebanese meatballs on pita bread with grilled vegetables and warm tahini sauce. (I’m still not sure what tahini sauce is but it is yummy.) Brent had a selection of meats–tender lamb chop, chicken, and beef. We both chose a different side of bulger wheat. My side dish was  flavored with chickpeas, tomato and a mild spicy sauce. It kind of reminded me of spanish rice–but with bulger wheat instead. Very tasty. Brent’s side was little different. We didn’t like it as well. It had bulger wheat and lentils and was brownish in color. It just wasn’t as good.

The lemonade was divine. The waitress brought us a large carafe filled with sweet lemonade with mint leaves in the sweet yellow liquid.

The service was excellent and the staff was so nice to us.  We really enjoyed our meal.

After stuffing ourselves to the point of feeling a tad sick, we drove to our hotel–a youth hostel that accomodates families. We stayed at the Poriyya Youth Hostel-4 km south of Tiberias. So it lies on the south-western shore of the Sea of Galilee. We got there at night so we couldn’t see the view. Our room was a bit spartan but clean. There were two sets of bunk beds and then two single beds which were pushed together. My mattress was very thin and very hard. But I still slept fairly well.

The next morning we were up bright and early and ready to eat our breakfast, which was included with the price of our room. We were treated to a geniune Israeli breakfast. We had a selection of breads, fruits, cheeses, tuna fish, an eggplant salad, fresh yogurt, a selection of fruit yogurts and puddings, boiled eggs, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot chocolate, juice, milk, etc. It was yummy. My kids ate very well.

Our window had the most gorgeous view of the lake shore. We were sad we didn’t get to stay a bit longer because the hostel had a great playground, a beautiful location on the lake and looked like a fun place to stay a couple of days.

But we had to get to church at the Tiberias branch. So we said goodbye and drove away.

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Ali Babwa’s BYU Shop

Yes, my friends, you read that correctly. In the old city, there is a store called Ali Babwa’s BYU shop. The owner of the shop sells products specifically marketed to BYU students and Mormons. He has beautiful leather scripture cases with Jerusalem designs. For about $10, you can get a scripture case for the miniature scriptures.

 I laughed and laughed when I heard the name of the shop. What a great name!

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Capernaum

We drove just a little south from the Mount of Beatitudes to the ruins ofCapernaum. Capernaum was a Roman-Jewish city that may have had 10,000 inhabitants at one point. It was used as a Roman toll station.

Many of the apostles were from Capernaum, including, Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew. Jesus Christ lived in´Capernaum for about 18-20 months of his three-year ministry. And most of his miracles were performed in Capernaum or nearby Chorazin or Bethsaida. Unfortunately, these three cities rejected Christ and his teachings and they were cursed by Jesus Christ. Only their ruins remain to this day.

Now, it isn’t necessarily unusual that a first-century city is now only ruins. But when you consider how many cities there are in Israel which are even older than Capernaum but which still thrive, this is interesting that they lay in ruins and were cursed by Christ. (The reference for the cursing is found in Matthew 11:20-24)

I looked quickly through my Bible Dictionary through the entry: “Gospels, harmony of” and found a listing of the events of Jesus Christ’s ministry. It is a fascinating reference. The list of miracles and teachings that occurred in Capernaum is quite extensive.

I wasn’t sure of what to expect in Capernaum. After the unruly behavior of our boys, I was concerned that we wouldn’t have a good experience. But we were greatly surprised. Most of these sites are operated by churches or even the Israel tourist association. While I understand the necessity of the churches, sometimes it felt a little artificial to be herded around with a group of tourists, gasping at a holy site and then being shuffled into the gift shop to buy “holy relics from the holy land”. Okay, so it wasn’t as bad as that, but sometimes I got that feeling. I appreciate the effort the churches go to maintain the sites. If they weren’t there, I expect that the places would be completely dismantled and over-run by over-eager tourists.

Despite the presence of a church and gift shop, it was subdued and didn’t detract from the place.
Capernaum is literally a city of ruins. You walk around, looking over fences, to see the lines of stone homes, shops, and town buildings. The entrance is dominated by a huge bronze statue of Peter with a fish at his feet and keys in his hands. I like statues of Peter. My boys and I talked about Peter and who he was and what he did. Behind the statue, is a beautiful garden and then steps leading to an unusual church. This church is set dramatically over the ruins of a church that was placed over the alleged ruins of Peter’s home. (Isn’t that a funny sentence?). The center of the floor of the church is glass so you can look down and see the ruins.

As we looked at the ruins, I told my boys the story of the Christ healing Peter’s wife’s mother. And then we read about the Roman centurion whose servant was healed. A few steps from the church are the ruins of a Romanized synagogue. It was about this location that Christ gave his magnificent sermon on the Bread of Life after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. I read the entire sermon quickly as I stood on the steps of the ruins. Christ proclaims that He is the Bread of Life—offering eternal life and salvation. It was such a contrast to the ruined city that obviously wasn’t eternal. The contrast was powerful and inspiring. I read a few verses for the boys and then we walked on.

Even though the city was cursed and now lies in ruins, it was here that I really had a sense that Jesus Christ really walked, talked, healed, laughed and prayed. I felt more personally connected to him.

As I challenged you before, please read through this sermon found in John 6. It is really powerful and meaningful.

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