Monday, June 10, 2013

Arriving in Israel

Saying Goodbye to Shushan at the Airport
Today's travel has thankfully gone quite smooth. Shushan arranged for a friend to take us to the airport around seven. With only moderate traffic, we were at the airport in half an hour. Shushan helped me to my check-in and then departed to do some more tourism with Josh and Lauren before catching their overnight train back to Berdyansk. It was truly wonderful to visit with Shushan. She was such a blessing. ... This pass through security was perhaps the simplest yet, and within the half hour I was waiting at the gate for my departure. Once on the plain there was about an hour delay due to a problem with the baggage department, causing us to lose our place in the lineup. Although I was supposed to have had a window seat, the gentle who arrived before me sat there, so I didn't get many pictures from the sky this trip - perhaps next time.

Bus to Airport
Upon landing in Tel Aviv, we were shuttled to the airport where it took awhile to get through security - but no problems. I headed over to the exchange booth  to exchange some of my money into the new Israeli Shekel in order to at least have money to pay my sheruit driver to Jerusalem. A sheruit is about the size of sprinter. It carries up to ten passengers (or at least mine did). It was quite simple to find the sheruits - I simply followed the instructions listed on the JUC website. Once I started walking toward the sheruits, I was met by two drivers. "Yerushalayim?" "Yes! Jerusalem." I pulled out my map and showed them I need to go to JUC / American Institute near Jaffa Gate. The one driver referred me to other. And with that we were on our way to the Holy City. Two things immediately stuck me about Israel ... make that three once we got to Jerusalem. Everyone that I've talked to said that they were surprised by how dry and desert like Israel was. So when I arrived, I was expecting more desert like conditions, but actually it is fairly green considering. As we drove further into the hill country, the scenery became more dry, but still enough green. The second was the coloring of the buildings. I knew the laws in Jerusalem were that all buildings had to be the same color, but I was not expecting all the buildings on the way there to be like that too. It certainly adds to a more simplistic uniform environment. Third, upon arriving in Jerusalem, I noted the many Orthodox Jews! It has always been a rarity to see one in real life, but here they are everywhere. I was the last one off the Sheruit, so I got to see down several roads ... one in which we passed had many Jewish school children. Adorable on one hand, sad on the other. These Jews do not know their Messiah. It is a constant reminder pray. ... Thankfully, my Sheruit driver had been to JUC before. He did not want to try to drive up to the college with all the current traffic, so he dropped me off at the Jaffa Gate and I walked to the college. Upon arriving, I was greeted by Vern - one of the teachers and coordinator. He gave me a brief overview of the campus and showed me to my room. As of yet, I haven't even unpacked. I read though the information packet and jumped online to contact family that I had arrived safely and ... to make these posts. :) I'm told there is a festival of lights in the old city tonight, so I will probably head out to the city after dinner ... and hopefully find the Wailing Wall!

Jaffa Gate
Dinner was excellent. As I was told at dinner, the cooks serve Arab style. Meaning they serve you more than you can eat! The meal consisted of salad, chicken on a shish kabob, something similar to a hamburger patty with tomatoes on it, as well as corn, rice, and watermelon. Met several incoming students as well as a few long term students. I have found the campus quite attractive. Particularly the inner courtyard and gardens (no pictures yet - I'll get some in the morning :) ). While at dinner I was told that there is a light fair going on in Jerusalem this week. There would be strings of lights marking the paths through and around the city. A lady by the name of Karen recommended stopping by to see Zedekiah's Cave. Normally there is an entrance fee, but it has been waved for the festival. So that's exactly what I did this evening. I left campus around 7:30 PM and headed north to the Jaffa Gate. Although I initially took a peek inside the city, I chose to begin by walking the perimeter of the city from Jaffa Gate around the NE corner past the New Gate to the Damascus Gate. Around the walls are some gardens and parks. As I walked along the ancient wall, I was reminded of Jesus' words, "Oh Jerusalem, Oh Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing ..." I can picture Jesus weeping over the city and her people. So religious, yet so stubborn ,but how great is His love!! Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. As I walked around the old wall, I felt as if I could feel the heart of God, broken for his Holy City. Tears began to flood my eyes. A city with such diversity, such history, such stories to tell, yet the majority are without Yeshua. Oh how He longs to graft His people back into the source of life. As Paul states in the book of Romans, "For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?"  I am so grateful that I, a Gentle, have been grafted in, but how I long to see the Jewish people grafted back into their own tree. And not just them, but the Muslims, the Orthodox, the Catholics too. It's not that I haven't known this before or even that I haven't prayed for the Jewish people, but somehow being here has made its significance all the more real. At the moment I just can't escape the emblazoned image in my mind and on my heart of Christ weeping, longing to gather them to Himself! When you think of it, would you pray for Jerusalem and her people that one day she will say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" .... Just a bit farther down from the Damascus Gate was Zedekiah's Cave. This cave is said to have been used to quarry stone out for the first temple under King Solomon. It apparently spans five acres under the city! I then proceeded back to the Damascus gate and walked the perimeter of the Christian Quarter, back out the Jaffa Gate, and back to JUC. What a tremendous first encounter. Praise the Lord!

There goes my Baggage ... Next time in Israel!

Boarding for Tel Aviv
First view of the coast of Israel!

First View of Israel ... at the airport

We're on our way to Jerusalem in a Sheruit!

Scenery along the way ... 

Look at the Kids!

Arriving at JUC :)

City Wall walking toward Jaffa Gate from JUC

The Lights Festival - Just inside the Jaffa Gate

City Wall Heading North after the Jaffa Gate

North Wall after New Gate - Ligts Festival

Just Follow the Green Light!

Damascus Gate

The Cave of Zedekiah

The Cave of Zedekiah

Inside, part way down. - Low lighting, almost impossible to get a good picture

Notice where the cutting marks are from the quarry.

As far as they will let me see ....

Me at Zedekiah's Cave. Here is where much of the stone for the
 first temple may have been quarried. 

Keep following the lights through the old city!

Okay, now follow the Blue Lights - Projectors are set up with
short clips throughout the city.

Video Projection on City Wall

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