Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Very Full First 24 Hours in Israel

Our tour guide giving us an orientation as we enter the Old City.

 We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem about 6 PM Monday and got our room assignments and settled in and freshened up for supper. The Nazarene church is just a few blocks from the hotel so we all walked to the church where the pastor and Steve, a young American man staying at the church, had prepared a delicious homemade spaghetti dinner for the team. They added some fresh baked sweet bread and dessert made by the pastor’s family and with special help from his 4 year old daughter. This was a warm welcome and gave us weary jet lagged travelers a second wind to tour the facility and see what projects we will tackle while we are here.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast in the hotel and then boarded our bus for a day of touring in the Old City, The Mount of Olives, Bethlehem and the Shepherds’ Field. We logged about 6 miles of walking throughout the day. We visited the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Stations of the Cross, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we saw Golgotha, the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, and the tomb. We had a bonus stop at the Nazarene property inside the Old City where some people on the team have worked in the past. We got a rare view of the old city from the roof top of that building. Then we left the Old City and headed through the wall dividing Israel from the West Bank to have lunch in Bethlehem. We had excellent local fare that I can best describe as fresh baked pita pockets with grilled chicken and many “fixin’s” including the best humus I have ever had. Our tour guide was is a Christian Palestinian, from Bethlehem and he certainly knows where to eat there. We went from lunch to do a little shopping and then back to touring. We went to the birthplace of Christ, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Shepherd’s Field.
Western Wall

Golgotha, only the very top is exposed under this shroud.

The Dome of the Rock from the roof of the Nazarene property inside the Old City

The top of the flat rock where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemene, with an ancient olive tree, likely over 2000 years old in the center
The Old City from the Mount of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane is to the right of this picture location and lined up perfectly with the temple mound where we now see the gold Dome of the Rock mosque.  

Sheila and Doc in the Hotel lobby, with a reflection of Kenny in the mirror.

Sheila and Connie checking out the kitchen at the church as Tim looks through the serving window.
Team members boarding our bus at the hotel to get ready for a day of touring,.
Tim and Connie at the Western Wall.
Walking the Via Dolorosa.

Charlie sharing a photo op with fellow police officers,

Four pastors (Sheila, Doc, Russ and an orthodox priest) in one picture at Church of the Holy Sepulcher, right at the top of what the church believes is Golgotha.

Enjoying the view from the Nazarene property in the Christian Quarter in the Old City.

Tim found the hammock on the roof of the Nazarene property.

The artwork in the cove over the rock were they believe Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Standing on the Mount of Olives, makes it much easier to understand how all the events of Passion Week fit together and flow logically and connect together. For starters it was profound for me to see Temple Mound from this vantage and realize that not a single stone of the Temple was left standing just as Jesus said would happen. Today there is nothing of the temple above ground level and a large beautiful Gold Domed Mosque stands on this sacred temple plaza. Standing there on the Mount of Olives, were Judas betrayed Christ and the followers hid, it was also incredibly profound to realize that Jesus’ disciples and other followers not wishing to get caught could have stayed right there among the Olive trees and rocks and witnessed one of the most amazing events in human history. From this location they could have seen the processional of Christ to Golgotha carrying his cross. They could have witnessed the crucifixion. And when Jesus said “it is finished”, they could have experienced the earthquake and saw it literally crack Golgotha from top to bottom. What is more, the temple was situated with the giant curtain in front of the Holy of Holies facing right toward them. So when that massive curtain ripped in two, they would have been in a perfect spot to see it happen and see into the Holy of Holies, a place that was only accessible to the priests. I am overwhelmed just envisioning what that must have been like. When you add the resurrection and ascension to their firsthand experience with Jesus, it is not hard at all for me to see why almost of these disciples were willing to die for their faith.

After a day of touring that will certainly stick with me for the rest of my life, we then headed back to the hotel just before sundown to rest a bit before walking to the church to have pizza and do some more investigating for the projects that need completed here. After that, most of the crew headed back to the hotel for the night. Russ and I volunteered to go grocery shopping with the pastor and Connie. Shopping for fresh produce and groceries in a foreign country is always a challenge. But when the packaging is mostly in Arabic and Hebrew, it is especially difficult to find even basic things like ketchup and brown sugar. But with the pastor’s help we found everything on the shopping list and headed back to the church kitchen to put things away and head back to the hotel for the night.

Cathedral in Bethlehem

Team learning about this cathedral at Bethlehem over the cave stable where Jesus was born.

Grocery shopping in Jerusalem with Connie, Russ and Shahade.
Russ is concerned about getting some quality H20.

Our team boarding our bus one of countless times during our two weeks in Israel.
Shepherds' Field Chapel commemorating where the shepherds where told of Jesus' birth by the angels

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