Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Obama, shofars and real music!

It's Sunday morning and we're studying the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come…” should be our priority. Discover God’s Will for us. Listen. God is in the mounds of basalt and sedimentary rock around us. Trust in him. Yossi said, when he first met us, ‘Welcome home.’ This is our spiritual home.

Just before the oldest city on earth, Jericho, we cross the border into Palestine. It’s a smooth transition. We pass a tree said to be the one Zaccheus climbed in order to see Jesus better. I have my doubts about its age, although preliminary tests indicate it’s 2000 years old. Wouldn't it have to be much older in order to be big enough to climb? But the story is what’s important, not whether or not the tree remains. 
To our left is the Mount of Temptation. 

After we listen to a shofar, a horn like one that brought down the walls of the city, I get to try it out. A feeble squawk comes out. I'm no musician.

And after that, we return to the store to taste dates and sycamore nuts and meet a man who looks like Barak Obama.  

He thinks he looks like Obama. What do you think?

At the ruins of the old city, (much smaller than I thought) our guide proves he is a font of knowledge, telling us the term ‘orientation’ comes from all maps faced east at one time, toward the ‘orient’. Now they face north. 
The mosaic on the floor is much like the map on the walls of the destroyed cafĂ© we’d seen yesterday. 

Mosiac at Jericho

Sipping on pomegranate juice, I listen to how a two-state (Israeli and Palestinian) system doesn’t work. There is slow movement toward combining both economies. It’s a delicate balance. Bedouins who used to roam now rely on Israeli settlers for jobs. Israeli farmer build wells, give water for the Bedouin shepherds as well as the land, but Israelis fight the discrimination news agencies like CNN cause. We learn that the reason there is much garbage in Palestine and Jordan is the Bedouin way of life was nomadic for so long. They would discard what they did not want and leave the area. That attitude toward garbage continues.

Later that day, we pass through Samaria and see Zakar, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman. It’s one of my favourite stories, steeped in layers of meaning. We spy Bedouins with sheep, and learn how sheep have always been considered a currency. We’ve left the dusty and dry Judean Hills behind us, as we travel the fertile Jordan valley toward Galilee. Another border check is ahead, this one manned in part by a young woman. CNN might prefer to see tough Israeli soldiers chase young Palestinian rock throwers, but when the soldier who is chasing the boy is a young girl, it isn’t news worthy. The young female soldier cheerfully waved and called out “I love you!” as she departed our bus. We were free to leave the West Bank. 
Later, we pass along the Jordanian border, with its barbed wire. Yossi tells us a bit about the Kingdom of Jordan, its servitude to Egypt, and its connection to the Bible. Elijah came from there. To our left are the Gilboa Mountains where King Saul and his sons died.

Ahead is a stop in Beit She’an. I’m curious to see why we stop here. But with an archeologist as a guide, it should be interesting.

To my dismay, we’re given homework. We must find out why the Israeli flag has the Star of David on it. Despite how good the bus’s wifi is, I decide to leave my homework to tonight. Here in the world’s second oldest city, we visit an amphitheatre and listen to the acoustics as Yossi plays again for us, but this time, on a small stringed instrument called a bouzouki. 

The music is typically Greek, as Greek was spoken during Jesus’ time. It’s such a treat to have this talent with us. He stops and tells us where the word ‘romance’ comes from – Rome. The plays, erotic in nature, featured frenetic dances. Pagan worship is strong here, with Diana being at the centre, and we will soon discover more of why Jesus came to this region. 

The ruins at Beit She'in, the world's second oldest city.

We stop for lunch, and suspicious that the next $12 falafel will have cucumbers in it, I settle for a bag of popcorn. We sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and the clear blue sky. 

Lunch outside, quiet and sunny.

It’s not overly hot, barely warm really, but nice just the same. Back on the bus, with Yossi apologizing for not spending more time at some of these sights, we pass a large double amphitheatre, where gladiators fought. Their entertainment was also erotic in nature, but Yossi leaves it at that. Stopping at the spring, we hear Yossi talk about Gideon testing soldiers for battle, and as a veteran, I understand the imagery he describes. 
Soldiers who dropped their weapons to shove their heads underwater at a river after a long march put themselves at risk and God excused them from battle. The water is filled with snails and alive with small blue fish. This area of the country is green and alive. Seagulls, pelicans, storks and birds with white stripes on their wings fill the fields. Solar panel farms take advantage of the sunlight and farms are everywhere. We leave this lush valley and head north, passing a round building that is, to my surprise, a McDonalds. It’s not long before we spy the Sea of Galilee, with the misty Tiberias in the distance.
At the Mount of Beatitudes, we sing two hymns, and I'm thankful one of our group is a good singer and another has brought her harmonica. We read from Matthew 5, the blessings. 

I try in earnest to figure out which ones I might earn, and shamefully realize I am not meek enough, nor pure in heart nor a peacemaker. It’s strange to come all this way to feel how little I deserve Christ’s love, yet receive it just the same. Jesus called his followers ‘the salt of the earth’, for salt was such a valuable commodity, a precious stone. Imagine such a basic crystal being so important it spawns words like ‘salary’, ‘salad’, even eventually, ‘sauce’, ‘sausage’.

Tomorrow - Snow! In Israel!

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