These past few days have been VERY busy for our team. We have seen and done some pretty amazing things. In the next few paragraphs, I will do my best to put into words our journey from the past two days.
Experiencing what many Palestinians experience on a daily basis is important to us. So, this past Monday, we walked through Beit Jala and entered Israel on foot through a guarded checkpoint where passports and bag inspections are required. Palestinians are not allowed in Israel without a permit and those are difficult to come by. The wall separating Palestine from Israel is covered in graffiti, displaying people’s hopes and dreams for freedom and unity between the two. Being American and Canadian citizens, we were ushered through with absolutely no problems. Once through the check point, we boarded a city bus and drove to the Old City.
After a lunch of Shawarma (I think not many teammates care for falafel like I do!), we walked to the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb is located in Jerusalem, just outside the Old City walls and close to the Damascus Gate. It is a rock-cut tomb considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus and to be adjacent to Golgotha, a contradiction to the “traditional” site for these events: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was a “must see” site for the team because it is the only place where the Gospel message is actually presented. All “holy” sites are more concerned with rituals and tradition than they are about pointing people to Jesus Himself. There is absolutely no emphasis placed on evangelism anywhere here which is why we loved visiting the Garden Tomb: they tell people about Jesus and God’s gift of salvation! We know that we can meet with Jesus in ANY place around the world, not just the “holy” ones. Now that is special and life-impacting! I praise the Lord for the precious gift He gave to humanity over 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, a baby born to die for the sins of mankind.
After the Garden Tomb, we boarded the Light Rail Train for a trip into modern Jerusalem to visit the Yad Vashem Museum, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the dead; honoring Jews who fought against their Nazi oppressors and Gentiles who selflessly aided Jews in need. There is an age requirement that all guests must be at least 10 years old, so I waited outside with my children, Lily and Gabriel, since they do not meet that requirement. Every one that did tour through museum though were very touched and sobered by the experience. Many commented that they would never forget what they saw and read inside. For a war that seems lifetimes away for them, I was proud of the thoughtful, contemplative, and respectful way they approached their time at Yad Vashem.
Yesterday, we boarded a coach and spent the day exploring some of Israel’s historic sites. Our first stop was Masada. Masada was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001. Its inscription on this prestigious list epitomizes its outstanding universal significance. Masada was the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans; its fall signaled the violent destruction of the kingdom of Judea at the end of the Second Temple period. The tragic event of the last days of the rebels at Masada transformed it into both a Jewish cultural icon and a symbol of humanity’s continuous struggle for freedom from oppression. Built by Herod, king of Judea, Masada was a palatial fortress in the style of ancient Rome. The camps, fortifications, and assault ramp at its base constitute the most complete surviving ancient Roman siege system in the world. Its plateau is 450 meters above the level of the Dead Sea. Inhabitants and visitors to ancient Masada reached the summit just as we did: by climbing up the Snake Path. The difference in altitude between the bottom of the path and the top is 350 meters. We climbed about 700 stairs on the winding 2 km path to reach the top. Whew!!!!!! It was tough and hot, but we all made it. The view from the top was worth every loss of breath and every sore muscle we are feeling today. It was incredible. Words can not possibly explain what our eyes saw, and a picture won’t do it justice either, but I will send one along with this report anyways.
From Masada, we traveled to En Gedi, an oasis in the desert located on the coast of the Dead Sea. It was here that King David hid during his wanderings in the desert after fleeing from Saul. We hiked the Lower Wadi David, a trail that passed by waterfalls and pools containing lush river vegetation and culminated at David’s Waterfall. We stopped at one of its many natural springs and, in our travel clothes, some of us even went in for a “waterfall shower”! It was so much fun and a great way to have “natural” air conditioning. Many pictures were snapped to help us remember the moment.
After walking up and down countless mountains and hills, we ended our day at the Dead Sea, in hopes of draining the soreness from our over-worked, tender muscles. We all laughed at our natural ability to float. We had so much fun posing in all sorts of impossible positions, like the “Superman” and the “reading-on-your-side” pose. The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level, making it earth’s lowest elevation on land. It is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, which is why it makes swimming similar to floating. Many of us afforded ourselves the luxury of having a Dead Sea spa treatment by rubbing its mud all over our bodies. We looked like Amazon men and women! Of course, this might be a contributing factor to why we are all glowing today.:)
Today, we are back at work after our two full days of sightseeing. We finished pouring the patio and have started another project for the school. Of course, this new project involves more digging, steel tying, and, you guessed it, concrete!!
Thank you for praying for us! Your faithfulness to hold us up in prayer is making a difference in each of our lives. Please don’t stop!!
“I never thought I would be here. I never thought I would see the places that I have seen and walk the places I have walked. It is amazing to experience and view the culture and compare it between Palestine and Israel. I love going to the historical and biblical sites because it gives me a different and better perspective of the events that occurred in the Bible. I’m always amazed that I am actually here. I never want to forget any of it.” Emily A.
“Being in Israel has been amazing! We have gotten a lot done and it is looking good! We have done a lot of work and a lot of sightseeing and I love it! It is crazy to see all the things like the skull mountain where Jesus died and the tomb where they think Jesus was laid to rest. We went to the Dead Sea and swam in it, which was crazy! The best part is that we are walking where Jesus walked. It has been an amazing trip so far!” Cayla G.