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Friday, March 30, 2018

Our trip is complete

At supper, I spy again the young waiter who looks like my son, but this time, corral him over to our table to show those who know my son. We all agree that he looks like him. My friend takes a photo, but the young waiter doesn't speak English, so who knows what he thinks of me!

This young waiter reminds me of my son. He probably thinks I'm a crazy old lady, though!
Here are a couple of photos of my son. Do you see a resemblance?

After supper, we meet for a debriefing and finally learn the truth about the Israeli flag. It’s as we suspected. In remembrance of the Holocaust.
This is our last full day here in the Holy Land. It's a been an awesome visit and the group really meshed well. I have made some wonderful friends and learned so much. It is hard to say good-bye to them, even Yossi, from whom we learned the most. I have tried hard to state what facts he told us correctly and remind you again that any mistakes are mine, not his.

And I would be remiss if I didn't thank our bus driver. He kept our windows clean so we could take photographs through them, he safely delivered us to some tight spaces and was always there for us.

I must reiterate again that I never once felt unsafe, despite the skirmishes Israel participated in. Israel is safe for tourists, and for the most part, its citizens just want peace. I've visited many countries, thirty-one if my count is correct, lived in five, and can say with certainty that some of those places are far less safe than Israel. Our tour companies, Christian Journeys and Ariel Tours took good care of us. 

We have a few bumps in the road returning home, just like coming here. They are all weather related. We finally arrive in New Brunswick around 3 am, and head off to our homes and our beds. 

Some of us got an early start on their sleeping.

I hope you've enjoyed traveling with me, and I hope you enjoy your Easter.

Inside the tomb.

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Even before the Garden Tomb, It Is Well With My Soul

Later, we go to The Jerusalem Prayer Center, which is now housed in Horatio Spafford’s daughter’s house. There we spend some time singing and visiting the prayer room before going to the Garden Tomb.

This is just a statue we passed. I like it. Can you guess what it represents?

Before we headed out, I was reluctant to head up to my room. The smell of burning incense is strong on that floor, overpowering even. I return to the lobby to find it’s packed with Orthodox Jews, and many of the women are pregnant. Years ago, I was told many regular Jews who work often believe that the government shouldn’t support those who choose not to work but rather study the Talmud and Scriptures. They often spend the Sabbath in fancy hotels like this one, most likely at the taxpayers' expense. 
Oftentimes, these men don’t serve in the armed forces, either. I notice the woman beside me toying with a regular key, not a key card. To use a manual key isn’t considered work. Earlier, we watched a family struggle to carry a huge stroller down the stairs, instead of taking the elevator. I’m not sure if this was related to avoiding work or not.

A young woman, a soldier, strides past us, a duffle bag slung over one shoulder, a rifle over the other. Her duty shift is over. The Sabbath almost over. Can we blame Trump for this? Since he announced that the US embassy will be moving to Jerusalem, the Muslims have called for a Day of Rage each Sabbath, so therefore, soldiers on duty at major hotels.

At the Jerusalem Prayer Center, a Baptist Center and a mere five-minute walk from our hotel, we sing ‘It Is Well With My Soul.’ After, we head upstairs to the Interactive Prayer Room, where I watch my sins dissolve in water, where I draw and colour a sketch and read special Scriptures that speak to me so much I have to write them down. I was so enthralled, I neglected to take any photos.

At the Jerusalem Prayer Center

Yossi playing It Is Well With My Soul.

Shortly after, we head over to the Garden Tomb. While we are waiting for our guide here, Yossi begins to explain about the flag, but our Garden Tomb guide arrives and we all groan. We have to wait to hear the answer.  

Waiting for our guide, before Yossi started to tell us about the flag

Here, we learn, is a place that would show a person what Golgotha might have looked like in Jesus’ time. There is only circumstantial evidence for this place being the real Garden Tomb, as the church we visited yesterday is the favourite. But it’s interesting. In Lev 1, it says a lamb must be slaughtered to the north of the altar. This Garden Tomb is to the north of the altar. Right at the Road to Damascus where the Romans could warn people not to disobey them. The signs above each cross had to be close enough to read, so the cross would have been closer to the road. But is this the real tomb of Jesus?
Does it really matter in the long term?

Golgotha, decades ago. The Place Of The Skull. Can you see the skull?

That same place today

Another view beyond the Garden Tomb. It's a bus station now, right below a Muslim graveyard.
This garden had a wine press.

One of the small plates
Inside the tomb.

Today, it’s noisy and busy and we feel rushed so it’s hard to imagine this place 2,000 years ago. Our tour is quick but we get to share in Communion and visit the tomb. 
We return to our hotel at sundown, in time to see an Orthodox rabbi in a large fur hat and gold coat stride by. I had noticed another man at the Wailing Wall, days ago, his jacket slung over his shoulders and his stance tall and confident. He’d had many people milling around him, and he was obviously important to them. This rabbi was the same. I think of God’s words to Samuel, “You look upon the outward appearance but I look upon the heart.” 
Today is our last full day here, and finally, tonight, we learn the truth about the Israeli flag.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A bagel, a nose and a disturbing thought for Christians

On our way to the Upper Room which is in a large, unassuming building for Jerusalem, we pass a statue of King David and notice its broken nose. Some Orthodox Jews took offense to someone making an image that could be worshiped. The men responsible are satisfied with the damage, for until it is complete again, it’s no longer a graven image. 

Can you see David's broken nose?

Jews consider David, whose name means The Lover or Beloved, to be perfect, but even he admitted he was a sinner. Yet, he knew how to ask for forgiveness when he sinned.

We learn that there are three levels to this building, the lowest one being the Tomb of David, although our guide says David is buried with his father in the Kidron Valley. Nonetheless, it’s sacred to the Jews and when we walk in, we’re segregated according to our sex and because it's the Sabbath, the electrically lit menorah is covered in black fabric. A young Jewish woman at our side tells us no photographs, for it’s forbidden to work on the Sabbath. She is here praying, as I look around. Above me is a plastered ceiling and in front of me was a small Wailing Wall set behind a menorah, separated from the men by a wooden panel. I apologize to the woman for disturbing her prayers. She smiles warmly and touches my arm, saying it’s all right.

The second floor is the Upper Room, repaired during the crusades. It has a medieval flavour, but only one column remaining from Jesus’ time. 

The only column from Jesus' time.

Our guide read from the Bible on Holy Communion, and then tells us that first Communion happened 6th April 30 AD. So exact. 

We leave, but don’t go up to the third floor. It’s a minaret as the Muslims once held this building. Instead, we walk to the Church of the Domition, where Mary is said to be buried. Of course, Ephesus makes that claim as well. This church says ‘where Mary fell asleep’. Being a bit slow, I had to ask what that meant. 

A view from behind the Upper Room

It’s interesting to note she was supposed to have been 127 years old, and those numbers signify 1- age, 2- beauty 7- purity. It was also Sarah’s age when she died. Numbers apparently have significance in the Bible.

Inside, someone is playing Bach’s Trio Sonata allegro on the organ and it sounds to me like the Christmas music played at the Mount Allison Chapel in Sackville, New Brunswick. 

This is the building that has both David Tomb and the Upper Room

After we leave, our guide leads us to a shady spot. Some of group have found the walking hard as it’s up and down on irregular steps and it was warm in the Upper Room. I notice our guide has applied sunscreen, but the sun feels nice to me and I don’t burn. There in the shade, Yossi tells us that some people are deeply concerned that the Trinity will become the Holy Quartet. That is, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit will soon include the Virgin Mary because so many worship Mary some calling her a goddess, some going so far as to say she rose from the dead like Jesus. It's a disturbing thought.

We pass the bagel stands we'd seen earlier, and I buy a Jerusalem bagel, asking for the za’atar, the small pouch of herbs that goes with it. The cost – 10 NIS. 

Long bagels with herb pouches are Jerusalem Bagels
This stand also sold sweet treats and dried fruit.

We head back to the Grand Hotel, where in the courtyard, my husband and I  share the bagel with our friends. It’s big enough and the courtyard pleasant enough until we head to a distinctly American establishment.