Friday, March 25, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Nine - Extra

Dear family and friends...

This evening after dinner, we met together as a group for the last time. Penny talked about using our senses as we worship...and asked us for ideas to make the space we were in feel more sacred to us.

We rearranged the chairs in a circle, found a table to put in the center, covered the table with a shawl someone had bought, and lit a candle in the center. Someone placed a Bible on the table, and tangerines and an orange.

Then Penny asked us to tell something that made us feel Jesus in our midst on this trip...Communion on the Sea of Galilee and in the Garden, singing with people from many places at St. Anne's, walking in the places Jesus and his Disciples walked, praying in holy places, meeting the people of this country, and learning to care about them.... Many of us had tears in our eyes. We aren't the same people we were before we came here....we've been changed.

We sang "Let Us Break Bread Together," shared Communion one last time and sang "Amazing Grace."

Some of us are leaving early in the morning....some WERE going on to Egypt, but couldn't,and their plane leaves for home Saturday afternoon.

Our group started out as several groups: some of us from St. Paul's UMC, some from Lac Qui Parle Lutheran Church in Dawson, Minnesota, and several people who worshipped in Christian churches where Terry was pastor. In 10 days we've come to really care about each other, and it's sad to say goodbye. We hugged, got a group picture, and cried a little more, too. It's been an amazing journey...VERY emotional and spiritually filling.

Dawn and Chuck

Israel Trip - Day Nine

Dear family and friends~

After breakfast, Eric and Penny asked us if we wanted to go for a walk with them in the Armenian Quarter. When we walked out to the street, there was a marathon going on! The first picture is of some of the runners, with Israeli soldiers near the barrier.

That was the direction we wanted to go, but we couldn't. So we walked down David Street and wandered around for awhile.

We ended up near St. Mark's Convent, site of The Upper Room and The House of Mark. The second picture is of the sign near the door.

The third picture is of the door and decoration.

Everywhere we look in this city we see ANCIENT places. It is amazing!

A brief history of Jerusalem, from one of our tour leaders: During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled sometime around 4000 BCE, making Jerusalem on of the oldest cities in the world.

Dawn and Chuck

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Eight

Dear family and friends~

Another early start today, from the Gloria Hotel.

After breakfast, we walked through the narrow streets of Jerusalem to the Western Wall...a very holy place for Jews. Prayers are offered silently, out loud, or written on slips of paper and placed in the cracks of the Wall. The left side of the Wall is for men only...women pray on the right, and there is a divider between the two sides.

The Wall was where Chuck had a mission to complete. His good friend, Tom, is Jewish. Chuck asked if he could bring Tom's yarmulke (skullcap) with him on this trip. Tom said he would be honored. Chuck said it was he who would be honored. So we brought his yarmulke and his prayer. Chuck bought a beautiful prayer shawl for Tom. Today he put on the yarmulke and shawl, and placed Tom's prayer....and his own the wall. The picture is of Chuck at the Wall.

I placed my prayer in the Wall, too. It was an emotional experience for both of us.

We went next to the Dome of the Rock, which was the site of the original Temple of Jerusalem. It is now a Muslim holy place, and the building is not open to tourists...only the area surrounding it.

We went to the Church of St. Anne...mother of Mary...and grandmother of Jesus. The church was full of people, and they were all singing together. When one song ended, someone else started another. Someone in our group started singing “Amazing Grace”, and everyone joined in. It was beautiful.

Right next to the church is the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus met the man who was unable to walk. The man said “I have no one to help me into the healing waters of the pool.” Jesus told him, “Take up your mat, and walk.” He was healed.

We continued on to the Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering). There are 14 stations along the way...each showing part of Christ's suffering and death. The last stations are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also called the Church of the Resurrection). The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified, and is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century, as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus. The second picture was taken inside the sepulchre.

We headed to Papa Andreas' restaurant for lunch, and said goodbye to our guide, Tony. He has taught us SO much, and we're all sad to say goodbye. The good news is that he may be in Minnesota in 2012, so we'll get to see him again. Now we have two people we care about personally in Israel...Tony and Ihab. We pray that they, and their families, will always be safe.

Chuck and Dawn

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Seven

Dear family and friends~

First of all, we're all fine. You may have heard that there was an explosion in Jerusalem. It was near the main bus station, just outside the Damascas Gate of the Old City. We didn't hear the explosion, but we heard the sirens.

We are staying near the Jaffa Gate, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

We started our day at Kibbutz Almog. After breakfast, we got on the bus and drove to Jerusalem. We started our tour at the Mount of Olives. The first picture is of an ancient olive tree at the Mount of Olives.

It's such an amazing feeling to be in the places we've read about in the Bible...the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. The hills are steep, the paths narrow, and there are so many people doing the same thing as we are...walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

We shared Communion in the garden. Terry read from the Bible, then said a prayer. At the end of the prayer, each of us spoke the name of someone in need of prayer. It was a very emotional experience, and many of us left with tears in our eyes.

We continued toward Old Jerusalem, and saw the Holy Steps. These steps have been here since Jesus' time, and it is said that Jesus walked there.

We entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate. After checking in to our hotel, the Gloria, we went on a walking tour of parts of the city. We met Tony's (our guide) father-in-law in his tailor shop on St. Mark Street. He told us about himself, then spoke The Lord's Prayer in Aramaic...Jesus' language.

It's been an intense day. We're all tired. It rained this morning, and was a little chilly. The sun is shining again. Tomorrow: more parts of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Dawn and Chuck

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Six

Dear friends and family~

We've had a full day. Up early, breakfast, then on the bus to of Herod's fortresses.

We took a cable car to the top, and toured the partially restored fortress. The view is magnificent. Masada is also the place where a group of Jews died rather than allow themselves to be enslaved by the Romans. The first picture is us with Israeli soldiers.

Our next stop was Qumran...the place where shepherd boys found the scrolls...books of the called the Dead Sea Scrolls. The second picture is Cave 4, where many of the scrolls were found.

We floated in the Dead Sea, and now we are at Kibbutz Almog for the night. The third picture is of floating in the Dead Sea.


Dawn and Chuck

Monday, March 21, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Five

Dear family and friends,

This morning we met for a discussion with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Executive Director of the ICB, of Bethlehem. (He was born right across the street from where Jesus was born, and his family has been in Bethlehem for a long time.)

We also toured Dar Al Kalima school and wellness center. It is a place for Palestinians in Bethlehem, Christians and Muslims, to go for physical and mental wellness. They've recently started a program for girls' sports, and have an excellent girls' soccer team.

After lunch, we saw the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel. We traveled through the checkpoint to Jerusalem, and visited the Shrine of the Book, the Jerusalem Model, and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

The Shrine of the Book was built to hold the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and generally date between 150 BCE and 70 CE. Tomorrow we go to Qumran, where the scrolls were found.

The Model of Jerusalem is a 1:50 scale model of the city of Jerusalem as it appeared during Jesus' time. The first picture is of the Model.

Our final stop was Yad Vashem...Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and was established in 1953. The origin of the name is from Isaiah 56: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem)...that shall not be cut off.” It was a moving, and very powerful memorial. Very sad... There is also a memorial to the children who died in the Holocaust. Inside the names of the children are read. There are five candles lit, but many mirrors make it look like many candles.

The second picture is of a young man in our group from St. Paul's UMC...with some of the young Israeli soldiers.

Tomorrow...the Dead Sea.

Dawn and Chuck

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Four

Dear family and friends~

After breakfast, we went to the International Center of Bethlehem, for a tour and discussion led by Hussam, a Christian employee of the center. He told us what life is like living in the West Bank. He has lived in Bethlehem all his life (28 years).

The ICB is attached to the Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church. The pastor, Mitri Raheb, is the executive director of the center. Following Sam's message to us, we went to worship at pastor Mitri's church. The first picture is of the ceiling in that church. In Arabic calligraphy it says “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men.”

The service was fascinating! The service was done in Arabic for the most part. We were given a bulletin in English, and some of the songs sounded familiar, but we were lost some of the time. There was a Japanese American United Methodist group from California. Several in their group, including their pastor, spoke in English...telling about the pain in their hearts for the people of Japan. They also sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” in Japanese. Between verses, pastor Mitri read letters from their sister church in Japan. It was very touching.

After lunch, we walked through narrow streets of the Old City of Bethlehem to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. (The lines were long, so we left and went back later.) We went to Herodium, where an archaeological dig is uncovering Herod's home on top of a man made mountain. The view was really could see for miles.

Then we went to Shepherd's Field in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. We sang together in the chapel there. The second picture shows a painting in that small chapel.

Then we went to a cave where the shepherds may have sought shelter in their daily lives. We returned to the Church of the Nativity, and saw and touched the Bethlehem Star. The third picture is of the Bethlehem Star which marks the place where Jesus was born.

We've had a long day, but it's been so interesting and meaningful. The three groups that make up our tour group are really starting to meld.

Dawn and Chuck

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Three

Dear family and friends~

We've had quite a day! After another delicious breakfast at St. Margaret's Guest House, we rounded up our luggage and got on the bus.

Our first stop this morning was the Greek Orthodox Church and Mary's Well, where the angel Gabriel told Mary about her pregnancy. There was a service going on. It was so interesting to watch and listen. Mary's Well is down some stairs inside the church.

We then rode down through the Jordan Valley, and inside the West Bank (through a checkpoint) to ancient Jericho to see the tel of the oldest city ever discovered. There were archaeologists working when we were there. (A tel is man-made hill.)

We traveled on through the Judean desert to Bethlehem. This evening we ate dinner at Il-Illiyeh Restaurant at the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB). Tonight we stay in Bethlehem, at the Grand Hotel.

There is a small percentage of the population who is Christian in Bethlehem. Most of the others are Muslim. Tomorrow we'll go to Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The pictures are of Ihab, our driver (you can see Pastor Penny sitting in the bus) and Tony, our guide.

Ihab is an AMAZING driver! We have a 60 foot bus, and the streets in the cities are narrow and twisting! Tony really knows the Bible. He quotes scripture from memory, and tells us Bible stories that allows us to relate to where we are.

Love, Dawn and Chuck

Friday, March 18, 2011

Israel Trip - Day Two

Dear family and friends~

We got up at about 6:00 am, freshened up, and had a breakfast of pita bread, slices of turkey, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a warm hard-boiled egg.

The first picture is the view from St. Margaret's Guesthouse terrace. You can see the city of Nazareth.

We were on the bus by 8:00.
Today we toured the Galilee region. We drove through Cana (where Jesus changed water into wine), then on to the Sea of Galilee. We went to the Church of the Beatitudes, in the area where Jesus preached: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth".... We walked down a path toward the lake, where Jesus may have walked, to the Chapel of the Primacy of Peter. What an amazing feeling to think that Jesus was RIGHT there.

We traveled by bus to a kibbutz*, where we got on the Jesus Boat and sailed out into the Galilee. Our guide Tony explained the importance of that lake in Jesus time, and everything that Jesus did there. When we were out in the middle of the lake, they stopped the boat and we had Communion. It was a powerful, and very emotional experience.

We had lunch at the kibbutz*. Our last stop of the day was Capernaum. There have been archaelogical digs which have exposed homes from Christ's time. We saw Peter's home, where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others. The second picture is of one of the excavations, with Peter's home (beneath the church) in the background.

There is a beautiful Catholic Chapel built over Peter's home. The center of the chapel is open to the view of Peter's home below. There is a synagogue very near, too. The foundation stones are the same ones there during Jesus' time.

Tonight dinner at 6:30, then time to be together with the group. Tomorrow: Bethlehem.

Dawn and Chuck

*Kibbutz - A collective farm or settlement in modern Israel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Israel Trip - Day One

We have a group of 15 people from our church, currently traveling in Israel!  Our Pastor Penny, her husband Eric, and their dear friends, Terry and MaryLou are leading the trip through the Holy Land.

Here's our chance to keep up with what they're up to!  One of our beloved church couples is sending daily updates.  I'll post those updates here so we can follow along!

We made it!

After a VERY long flight from New York to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, we landed at 1:30pm Israel time. We boarded our bus with Tony (our guide) and Ihab (our driver). We drove to Caesarea, and saw ancient Roman Aqueducts near there.

Tonight we are staying in Nazareth. We're all very tired. We had a wonderful dinner here tonight: homemade chicken noodle soup, hummus with various salads, chicken and potatoes, and sweet tangerines for dessert. Time for a shower and some sleep.

Dawn and Chuck