After a very long day of traveling, we arrived in Tel Aviv at around 12:00 PM. Walking off the plane is always fun as you quickly realize that you ‘are not in Kansas anymore’. I love walking into the Ben Gurion airport, very modern with its unique décor.
This is the first trip to Israel which I take where we are not met with a tour guide and tour bus. Just the four of us heading to the Taxi line. Thank God most of these people speak English. We all piled into what wasn’t much bigger than a Geo Metro (maybe slightly bigger…but not much). Couldn’t believe that we all fit with our luggage and all, then off to Hotel Gilgal. I always try to strike up conversation with the people…though never met with much warmth. I have come to understand that it is partly because they either don’t speak English very well or partly because they just aren’t that friendly.
What a delight to find that our shuttle driver to Jerusalem was a wonderful Jewish Christian man named Ofer (Hebrew for ‘fawn’), who had come to faith about 10 years ago. It was awesome just listening to him share his faith, his love for the Lord and his frustration with all of his years of Hebrew schooling where the Rabbis conveniently left out the parts in the Old Testament which spoke of Jesus. One of the great things about visiting Jerusalem…is the opportunity to meet new people. As we got were dropped off at the hotel, he gave us his card and said if we needed anything at all, just give him a call and he would be glad to help us out. We knew that it was true. I love how the body of Christ is everywhere. Jesus said that faith in him makes us true family…we certainly found this to be true as we met this new brother in Christ.
After a sweet trip through the heart of Tel Aviv, on a beautiful sunny day, we arrived at the hotel, checked our bags and began the 1 ½ hour wait for our shuttle. The Hotel Gilgal is where we will be staying during our time with CC Tel Aviv. As you can see, it is a nice hotel (at least the lobby…we haven’t seen the rooms yet), and it was nice hearing Christian music playing in the lobby. We believe that it is some sort of a retreat center of sorts. Looking forward to the time in Tel Aviv, walks along the Mediterranean Sea and the ministry opportunities the Lord has for us.
We are staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem, one I have not stayed at before…very nice accommodations. Wanting to take advantage of our daylight, we quickly hopped a taxi to the Old City of Jerusalem and a very quick tour. Donna, one of Healing Hearts representatives from New Jersey, had never been to Israel before…it was a very emotional and moving experience for her. Sue opted to stay at the hotel and get ready for tomorrow as she had previously toured Jerusalem.
Visiting the Western wall (also referred to as the ‘wailing wall’ though the Jewish people do not like it referred to as such) is always a somber event. You realize how desperately these people need Jesus and how futile their attempts to know God in the manner they attempt. The sobering truth is that they are seeking the very God who pointed them to His Son and yet they are blind to it…how tragic. As you can see, by the photo on the right, one young man proudly helps his son to prepare himself for prayer, with the ‘phylacteries’ and all. Whitney made the comment as we watched an orthodox Jewish man on the plane, with prayer shawl on his head and phylacteries attached to his head and arm, “You have got to admire their devotion”, to which there is much truth. Sadly it is so misplaced.
The gold dome of the mosque on the temple mount has become the identifying landmark of Jerusalem. Though this is true, it is also the symbol of the tension that has existed between the Palestinians and Jewish people for thousands of years. As you drive through Jerusalem you can see the stark contrast between these two nations. The picture on the left shows me standing near the Zion Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. All of those holes around me are bullet holes from the ‘six day war’ in which the Israeli army reclaimed Jerusalem.
One of the great values of touring Israel, is understanding how real this tension is and the role that Israel will play in the last days before the return of the Lord. Ofer, our shuttle driver, reminded us of this tension as he shared how the Jews are not allowed in several areas in Jerusalem: Jericho, Bethlehem and Gaza, just to name a few. I find it interesting that the Palestinians insist that they should have access to all of Israel, and yet it doesn’t work the other way around.
After a good dinner and an futile attempt to get my wireless card to work, I headed to bed…only to wake up about 5-6 hours later at 3:15 AM. I guess jet lag is a real thing.
Today we will join up with Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and visit Golgotha and the Garden Tomb, where we Pastor Chuck Smith will lead us in a communion service. What an unexpected blessing, not originally planned, this was. To be a part of what may be Pastor Chuck’s last trip to Israel (though I believe he said that about his last trip here) at the ripe young age of 83, is a tremendous privilege. The Lord has really been putting 1 Timothy 4:11 on my heart, Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. I pray to God, that I will be found as faithful at 83 (should the Lord tarry and leave me here this long) as this godly man has been.
Well that is it for now...