As we wound down our final two days in Israel, our focus would be on the soup kitchen. Our day began by visiting what they call the café. CC Tel Aviv does this every Wednesday from 10 to 12. People from off of the streets come in and sit at tables while the staff and volunteers (mostly volunteers) serve them pita bread and humus sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and coffee or tea. I think that the part that blessed me most was that the people were able to come in and sit and be served. No long lines of waiting for their handout. It seemed that this would be the heart of Jesus. I would find out that the soup kitchen was run the very same way.
Whitney and I and Patrick (a missionary who has been working with Pastor Steve from the start of the church) visited with a man who was from Morocco. His name was Elimelech Solomon. He made sure that I understood how to pronounce it with an emphasis and the ‘…lech’ and the Hebrew sound of the ‘ech’, if that makes sense. At first I thought his first name was Elimelech but would find out later that that was his last name. He was quite an interesting fellow who had traveled a fair amount to the United States and spoke very good English.
At 1:00 PM we were off to the market. This was one of the most enjoyable things I have done in all of my visits to Israel. We would take these empty shopping carts and head to the ‘shook’, Hebrew for market, by foot (though I do not know if this is how you spell it).
We would soon arrive at the market. As you can see it was quite colorful and very animated with all of the people shopping and browsing about. You name it, it was there. Hundreds of people and hundreds of items.
It reminded me a lot of Pikes Place market, except with much more variety and animation. Not to mention the Hebrew language. I loved looking at all of the spices and olives and mounds of gummy candies. I tried to get some spices for Jenny, but failed in that I could not find any of the vendors who spoke English well enough to understand what I was asking for. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure. I look forward to going back.
Some 800-900 shekels later, we were headed back to the church with baskets overflowing with food and supplies for the soup kitchen the next day.
Later that evening I would attend the Men’s Bible Study. Several guys from the church came and Brian led us through a study through parts of
John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well. One of the most interesting things about bible studies in Israel, is the constant reference to the struggle between the law and how it restricts and Jesus and how He liberates. It just seems to mean a whole lot more when you are in the land where you see the restrictive nature of legalism all around you.
Generally by around 8:30 to 9:30 in the evenings, I am fading fast…due to the early morning wake-ups from the jet lag affects. This night would be no exception and during the sharing as I was doing my best to stay awake, I fell asleep. Not just had trouble staying awake, mind you, but full on ‘out’. Randy, a brother from Texas, who was sharing at the time, discreetly (not) called attention to the fact that I was full on asleep and told me I needed to get some rest. He went on to point out how that jet lag can kill you. Everyone was very gracious.
We had to pack up before turning in, knowing that we had to be at the church at 8:30 AM. The soup kitchen would take the rest of the day, giving us just a few hours before heading to the airport.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many pounds of potatoes we peeled. People were peeling and chopping potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions and cauliflower throughout the church building.
Sue was right behind the potato peelers chopping onions which were so strong it was about to take all of us out. There is a lady in the church who did the cooking. Her name is Regina. I spoke to her afterward and found out that she worked at a secretary at the German embassy. She speaks Romanian, German, English, French and Hebrew. You would be shocked at the number of languages spoken throughout Israel. To be honest it can make you feel very small.
The menu for the day was vegetable soup, cabbage salad, potatoes and chicken legs in a red and yellow pepper juice. Once the food was prepared, the tables were set up and each of us were given a table to serve when the people started coming in. We prayed and then at 2:00 PM, the doors were opened.
For the next two hours, we served: first the water, the soup and then the main dish. I had mainly older ladies at my table. Several old Hebrew women and I believe a couple of Russian women. For the most part everyone was very grateful although there were a few who were complainers. I had to remind myself that these are people who are homeless and living in the streets.
When we came across people who could speak English, we would sit down and visit with them. I had a very nice visit with a man named Doren, who was from Hungary. He was an Israeli army veteran who was wounded in the war of 1967 and is currently on disability. I tried to ask him a couple of questions about it…but it became obvious that it was difficult for him to talk about. He was a very pleasant man.
Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures in the dining area of the soup kitchen to protect the people’s privacy. We were told that some of them get nervous that we might turn them over to the authorities. There is also some traditional fears that a picture somehow takes a part of their souls. I wish you could have been there. As the Lord gives us our own building, a soup kitchen would be a must.
Towards the end of the meal, the women were able to go to the clothing bank downstairs. There were a bunch of them and as they were returning to their tables, they were proudly holding their new items up and sharing their joy with one another.
This is just a part of the group we served with. From left to right is Regina (the cook), Brian (who serves with Pastor Steve Apple), Zack (another American missionary indefinitely serving in Tel Aviv) and the rest of us. Linda, who is in between Donna and myself, is from CC Costa Mesa and was on our bus to Petra. She ended up staying a few extra days and was staying at the same hotel as we were. She was a real blessing and allowed us to store our luggage in her room while in Galilee.
Well that is it! Our adventure ends in the same manner it began, on a very long flight. As we are preparing to land in New York, we are looking forward to an American breakfast. We have a 10 hour layover in New York so Donna’s husband is going to be picking us up at the airport and we are going to have breakfast before our final leg of the trip. I am going to try and get this final post sent before we board the plane to head back to Seattle.
As great of a time as it was, it will be good to be back home with our families on good old American soil. Thank you all so very much for your prayers. We had a great trip, very productive and already looking forward to our next trip in March of 2011. I do hope that many of you can join us.