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Transplanetary Tourism (5)

I woke up in the morning to the sound of birds and the feel of the sun on my face - we had our balcony door open. We packed, I had a shower in a place with more water pressure than we have in Canada and this is a desert... It was a little better music than the canned Muslim call to prayer we heard the evening before, drifting across the valley from a nearby town.

After breakfast we went up to the Memorial to the Patriarchs park behind the hotel, which remains unfinished, but the first several sculptures and landmarks are already in place. There's a statue of Moses with a tear coming from his eye, hearing that he will not see the promised land. My Aunt commented that such a concept was very Jewish. I concur - the people here are wonderfully free with emotion, and I feel a kinship with that since that has always been a struggle for me in society - it is unacceptable to be completely free with your emotions, not in a way that is uncontrolled, but in a way that is real and passionate. Just in front of the statue of Moses is a water feature - the Jordan river, and we crossed it. Next is a well with twelve stones around it with relief carvings representing the tribes of Israel to reflect the story of the stones set up for the question of future generations - "Why are these stones here?" That would create the opportunity to tell them the story of God's deliverance. There was a great moment when the co-owner of the Hotel who was acting as our guide for the Memorial asked us all to crowd around the well and say the Hebrew word for water, which sounds like "mine". They had a little sprinkler on top of the well so we all got wet, and the exclamation from everyone was hilarious. Next we saw a 1/3 replica of the altar of Joseph with statues on it. The next stop was over to the side - a statue representation of Jacob's Ladder to heaven, and then just beside that was a relief carving representing Joseph's life experiences and dreams, as well as a statue under the monument in a "well" of Joseph looking up.

Next we had a very unique opportunity to hear personal experiences from victims of suicide bombings - the couple who owned the hotel (along with our guide from the Memorial) had each had a seperate experience with a suicide bomber. The one bomber I had mentioned in a prior post detonated in the Hotel Lobby and destroyed much of the interior which has since been rebuilt and injured the lady of the Hotel, Tovah, discussed the experience with us. She said people had asked her what it was like when the bomb went off, but it was impossible to explain - it was a flash of light and sound that threw her three metres and burnt her and filled her body with shrapnel, she said it was like hell and she could give no more accurate explanation. The desk lady, who had also been present, had nightmares for months about the smile on the face of the young man as he spoke with them. She said she had known he was suspicious when she asked if she could help him and he said he'd lost his cell phone. When she heard him say the word "phone" she knew his nationality because the Arabs can't say the "p" consonant and pronounce it as a "b" and she knew he hadn't been there before because he was Arab and they hadn't allowed Arabs on the premises because this was during the Intifada in 2002. So she asked him to stand where he was and she wanted the desk lady to call the police. He detonated when he saw two Israeli soldiers enter, because their training is to kill soldiers specifically in this area - Samaria, what the world calls the West Bank. She is walking, talking, and full of shrapnel today.

Her husband Menachem had a similar experience just down the street at the gas station. He saw a young man walking towards two busses that were transporting 100 IDF soldiers, some of whom were in the gas station or around the area relaxing. He confronted the boy who was wearing a brand new shirt, with the folds still in it and a small towel over one arm, and told him in arabic, "Go from here." He gave him a shove, and verified that the had a bomb. Then, since he was behind, he did a wrestling manouver to get the kid's arms behind his head, then shouted for help and got him on the ground. The soldiers didn't respond to his calls, or to his wife's calls. He was facing the soliders, and since he had a gun on him, he had to make a quick decision - he couldn't shoot the bomber himself because the soliders would see him as the threat. So finally when a store employee - a kid - came out with his gun, all was confusion. The bomber kept saying, "It's not what you think" and Menachem kept saying, "Shoot him! In the head!" Eventually the store owner came and told the kid, because he knew their neighbor Menachem was not a threat, to shoot the other one, and he did. Then when Menachem got up, a soldier shot at the body and detonated the bomb by accident. He still sets off metal detectors, but doesn't joke about it anymore at airports, since it tends to push the buttons of the security folks.

They gave us the opportunity to see the graphic photographs of the bomber's remains. It wasn't my first time seeing such sad gore, but it's different when it's connected with the idea of a bomber and a survivor both of whose words you've heard and whose story you now know. It was horrific. I will say no more on that subject.

Next we visited the ruins at Caesarea, the place where Herod the Great (the one who ordered the deaths of the baby boys in Bethlehem and tried to decieve the Wise men) built all the stuff to show off. Our tour guide Miriam told us that there's been a really fascinating psychological study of Herod, since the man clearly had issues like paranoia, depression, and other mental illnesses. My Aunt remarked to me tonight that The Naked Archeologist figures he had syphillis, which affects your mental faculties... But anyway. He was pretty obsessed with the building the biggest and the best, which may have just been a character thing... We entered the National Park and went to the Amphitheater, which has been rebuilt from whatever was found there, and it's now regularly used as a theatre. I went all the way to the top and met some Israeli kids who were probably about twelve or so. I have a picture of some of the girls, who asked where I was from and then shouted to their friends that they'd found someone here from Canada. They told me to enjoy Israel and I said I was enjoying it very much and snapped a quick picture of them. The one girl in the picture, when she reached the top running had spread her arms and yelled, "I love you Israel!" It was a neat thing to see. We had earlier started a noise contest with the Israeli kids on the other side of the Amphitheatre. They won, of course. Our tour guide commented that it was interesting - Hebrew children are always noisy and boisterous, and Arab children are always quiet and mannered.

I have some great photos from this place of the Mediterranean Sea. We next headed over to the ruins of Herod's Palace, including a swimming pool carved from the rock. Apparently the place was destroyed by the tsunami caused by the eruption of Vesuvius (which, for the less PBS inclined, was the volcano that destroyed Pompeii where they have all those eerie statuesque people frozen in ash and time.) We saw the broad expanse of another amphitheatre, long and narrow, designed for combat and horse racing. By combat, of course, I mean letting animals loose on defenseless people (mostly Jews, then Christians) and forcing slaves to fight each other - gladiators. In this same place Paul was brought before Felix and Festus and Agrippa before his appeal brought him to Caesar himself in Rome.

I found a couple of really neat things - a simple mosaic, for one. There was a column garden showcasing different column types, and though I only got to look for less than a minute, I also saw various bits of original sculptures that had been found there and got some pictures. Seeing the Sea for the first time was breathtaking, and I finally got to see some ruins that I've been looking at on a screen all my life. The real thing is vastly preferrable.

Next we made a very quick stop at a remnant of a Roman Aqueduct and the Mediterranean Seashore. I took a few moments to visit the aqueduct and then I gave in and went to dip my feet in the sea. I quickly saw a seashell and managed to collect a small handful of them. The sand is lovely, excepting when it's stuck between your foot and your shoe! I can't say I regret the experience though. The water was warm and welcoming.

It was lunchtime at a Falafel Cafe owned by a Druze couple. I had to sit for a moment to rid my sandals of their prefix after my beach moment, and the small red-brown dog who had been lounging in the shade took interest and ambled over. After I allowed her to sniff my hand and become aquainted, she let me pick her up and we sat in amiable company for a few minutes. I commented to a few of our compatriots at lunch that even the Israeli dogs were friendly, and I greatly enjoyed the experience of being chosen by one in spite of the hundred other people who were there.

Next we went to Mount Carmel, which overlooks the valley of Jezreel, aka, Armageddon. This is the mountain where Elijah called God to light a water-soaked altar on fire and it was burned up. It's also the valley where he killed all the 400 prophets of Baal who failed to get their sacrifice lit, even after an entire day of prayer and cutting themselves. The view from the Carmelite monastery was wonderful. The valley was peaceful and full of fields, yet it is where the battle over world's end will take place. There's an Israeli Air Force base there, and it's within a 3 minute jet ride from Lebanon.

Next we saw the ruins at Megiddo - all 17 layers from various occupations of the city. Modern Israel is a testament to the past - they never demolish the old places entirely, only rebuilt from the basics, just like in Megiddo. Solomon was once in possesion of the town and it was his chariot centre, so there are ruins of two stables there as well as a granary, a well hidden water supply, and other things. I really appreciated the breeze from the underground area, it was like air conditioning. I recommend you check the place out on Wikipedia, there's way too much history and content to go over. There's a big circular altar where the Canaanites used to make sacrifices to their gods, and they even found a lion bone there when they excavated, as well as many other animal bones.

We arrived in Tiberias for the evening and had a lovely supper at the Caesar hotel. We have the most fabulous view from our mini balcony of the Mediterannean Sea and the city.

So many other things to say about today. Little things, like seeing an ice cream van at the aqueduct, the tiny ponies outside the hotel because this town is a tourist resort, and bigger things like the various different places we saw on the road, including Arab-Israeli towns and other important places and mountains of note...

Important to note and something I am learning - there are Arab-Israelis and Palestinians, and they are considered different. It's not just Israelis and Palestinians who live here. There are Arab-Israelis as well. And Druze, who have their own religion and Bedouins who are Arabs on the side of Israel - one of which is our current bus driver, who was a scout in the IDF.

So much to say and think about. I love the people here and can't wait to meet some who are closer to me in age. So far even the kids we met in the army were 19 or 20. I have been in several University towns, but haven't met any students yet. I look forward to that experience soon, as I hear we'll be on a campus sometime this week.

Supper tonight was great because the falafel and salads were excellent, and I enjoyed a rousing talk with two of our group members. One of the great things about this trip is that I am surrounded by the totally like minded. There aren't too many Spirit-filled Christian Zionists in Saskatoon with whom I can discuss concepts I am familiar with from my background in Word of Faith. Tonight was a great time of discussing society and God's plan for us in these times which we believe are nearing the end of the age.

I sleep with visions of the Mediterranean in my eyes, the blues embedded in my mind as perfection, the water at my feet. After seeing tons of the countryside today, I think it fitting that God chose a land that had everything as the land promised to his chosen people. There are mountain lands, rolling hills, prairies, pastures, forests, lakes, sea shores, cities, country places. You could come from any place in the world and find a comfortable spot here. It's a great place for a giant homecoming.

Random things.

We saw a gravesite today - one smaller than but similar to where Jesus would have been briefly entombed - with a stone rolled away from the entrance.

In case I forget to mention it, this is the seventh year when they are supposed to let the land lie fallow. It keeps coming up because there are a lot of empty fields.

This hotel is a lot fancier in some ways, but totally like our first hotel in others.

I spent nearly an hour and a half on this entry, and we're supposed to be up at 6:30 again. I'm going to hopefully make it onto the internet one more time to post this.

I am thinking of you all and hope that my experiences here will be something that you can learn from as well. I love the culture here.

Reliving everything again in the evenings is pretty exhausting. Let's hope I can keep it up for a whole week yet.
Tags: #life, israel, transplanetary tourism
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