On prior trips to the “Holy Land” I’ve visited places like Galilee (region of 90% of Jesus’ miracles) Haifa (beautiful Bahai gardens), Yaachov Zichron (wine area), Jerusalem (holiest spot on Earth), Bethlehem (birthplace of Jesus), Ramallah (capital of Palestine), Hebron (Abraham’s grave), Eilat, Petra (stunning feature in Raider’s of the Lost Ark), and briefly Tel Aviv (vibes like New York). So far my experiences have shown me why the “holy land” is and isn’t holy!
During these last 30 days I have spent time in Jerusalem, Ashdod (a nice beach town south of Tel Aviv, special shout out and THANKS to AVI!), on a brief trip near Ashkelon/Gaza (click here for unedited report) and in Tel Aviv. It was a fascinating time. It was also extremely hot! Thank God for sabra cactus juice and aloe vera juice!
Sep 19 – Had a direct 15 hour flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tel Aviv (TLV) I sat in 57h, an aisle seat. Luckily nobody was beside me and the dude beside me got in a big discussion with the flight attendant and changed seats because our seats didn’t recline. Lucky for me I got a whole row! And a hint of Israel – the land of big discussions, everything is a big discussion here (not sure if it’s the heat, history or what, but more of this was to come).
Sep 20 – Surprising that one of the first things I heard upon arrival was “welcome home” both from a sabra native and via email from a friend back home! Since this land is the birthplace of the 3 Abrahamic religions, Israel is definitely a spiritual home for me and a few billion others.
Sep 21 -Hello and a half! What a crazy night, after an exhausting day. I started the day with volunteer work at a Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot with about 5000 other people from all over the world. Its an amazing event and one of Israel’s largest tourist events. After volunteering in the day, during the evening I ended up helping a friend get ready for the holiday by carrying huge Sukkot (Feast) Palms from Mea Shearim, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, (where a brawl almost erupted over what I think was a love-triangle) to my friends house.
Sep 23 – The Feast worship celebration officially opens – amazing comments streaming in from all over the world for the event in Jerusalem which had a live webcast as well.
Sep 25 – During the day of rest, shabbat, the sabbath, it is so peaceful and quiet in Jerusalem it is really beautiful. A few of us went to the Old City to wander around. While buying some delicious freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, we inadvertently watched a near fight break out! Classic – as one Arab dude grabbed a can of coke right in front of me and then literally threw it at his Arab opponent and then he grabbed a chair from a table, freaking out the gals we were with! Fortunately a crowd gathered and calmed the guy down. This was the second shouting match I’d seen in a week – does the intense heat here make people more tense or what?
Sep 28 – Attended the Jerusalem parade that marches through the city. The Bible clearly says the Feast/Sukkot will one day be the universal holiday that brings together all the nations, so is this parade a foreshadowing of the great Messianic march to come in the future? There were so many Christians who happened to be in the area who wanted to join in the march, the crowd almost got out of control. Due to the sheer numbers of hopeful participants you must be registered or security would not be able to control the crowds. I think they have to limit the number of Christians taking part in the parade to balance the local folks in the parade! From the thousands of registered people in our group, over 900 people came from Brazil! I can’t help but wonder why there aren’t more from the US? Also, towards the end of the march a few religious “black hats” made some rude comments because they would rather not see support from the Christian community. But, they got shouted down by their neighbors in the crowd who warmly welcomed us! Anyways, its a neat experience to have so many Jerusalemites cheering you on from the street, balconies and rooftops as you march through the streets. Seeing the national band playing at the end was icing on the cake!
Sep 29 – As the audience of several thousand had assembled to hear the prolific speaker Reinhard Bonnke preach it was kinda funny to see a pretty Israeli security guard frantically leap up from her seat as the “spirit descended” and worship cries/screeches started in the crowd and then thousands of hands rose in response to the message of the sermon.
In the evening the grand finale worship event in the En Gedi desert was quite amazing, hard to describe. I suspect many left Bonnke’s preaching feeling recharged as if their personal “prisoner chains” have been hacked off, like the powerful, heart wrenching true stories he related from Africa. We so easily forget that God provides. But by the grace of God go I.
Oct 1 – I had the pleasure of meeting a pastor from Cameroon/Gabon (where ever in Africa that is exactly I’m not sure) who has been coming for 17 years! He also mentioned that at $2300 for a flight its no small expense to represent his congregation! Impressive dedication! He also had some interesting comments as to how the Feast has changed over the years (used to teach more Jewish roots, more Hebrew songs, and multi lingual prayer etc) . Has the Feast become too “Euro centric”? For better or for worse the one thing that is constant is that change is constant.
Also for Friday shabbat dinner, I noticed there were 2 groups eating. One for Gentiles & one for a rabbi’s tables. No challah was provided for the Gentile group, just cheap white bread. WTF!! Hopefully, next time our group selects the full “shabbat option”!
Oct 2 – I must say I really love the peace and quiet of shabbat! We drove up to see an annual worship meeting of Arab Christians and Messianic Jews. Had an unexpected scare as our car got pulled over for search at a checkpoint, and one of the gals forgot her ID! This is not America, carry ID at all times! Sure glad to have American passports though! Anyway, after a little adventure finding the forest we got to our destination. It was very encouraging to see these native Messianic Jews & Arab Christians come together in unity and peace. This story doesn’t get told enough in this peace parched land! Although we did hear about the unfortunate bans on Messianic worship in the Negev where freedom of religion is being tested in an unfortunate case of Jews persecuting Jews. Can’t we all just get along? The event finished with a beeeeuuuutiful Aaronic blessing – quite touching in its native Hebrew.
Fortunately, we had enough time to check out the church at the Sermon on the Mount from Jesus’ famous beatitudes. I love the innovative round design, evocative of old school synagogue seating – all too rare today!
Also, we had the pleasure of visiting Yardenit on the Jordan River, where Christian pilgrims follow John the Baptist’s example. There is a wall with an amazing diversity of language panels.
While inspiring to see this Christian themed site, I keep getting a recurring and nagging feeling pondering why the messianic movement is so disorganized? Where is it? There are many examples of Christianity in the Holy Land yet surprisingly few Messianic ones. Is the Messianic “movement” really moving?
On the way back, late at night we stopped to get gas in the Jordan valley desert near Jericho, right beside the gas station there was a Cafe Cafe with a blow out party happening. It seemed so random at this isolated and desolate location. Israel has a thriving late night culture – perhaps to avoid the stifling daytime heat?
Oct 3 – Visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem. The evil of humanity is heartbreaking on so many levels. I don’t think the world has learned anything. Nothing has changed in the global system as genocide after genocide continues. How does the world’s longest running conflict, the Israel/Palestine conflict continue endlessly in the so-called Holy Land?? Depressing. Also of note to anyone who is in a minority, Jewish Christians were considered Jews by the Nazi’s. Like the poem “How Odd of God”, its an odd spot to be in – not fully Jewish according to Jewish Law and not fully Christian according to the Nazi’s. Also, another minority, Jehovah’s Witnesses, were murdered by the Nazi’s for their pacificism which is based off of Jesus’ encouragement for peacemaking. In other words, because they refused to take up weapons, weapons where used to slaughter them as well, just like Jesus. Very sad that the mainstream church still mostly ignores the peacemaking words of Jesus. (Like all the universal Christian soldiers and politicians perpetuating war.) Also, of note that the Vatican held agreements with the Nazi’s – I wonder what the specifics where?
Unfortunately it is disturbing to me that the the majority of people in churches still preach against the Jewish people, a people who are even called “God’s people, Israel” in the New Testament. For example, the leaders at Pacific Crossroads Church who say they, the church, are the “new Israel” – yet most of these leaders have never even been to Israel! Most churches have such little grace for God’s people, Israel. Crazy world. We all need to be more merciful and graceful!
Today, many people in Israel still seem to be displaying pain and abuse of the centuries of persecution. In Israel, you see some extremely disheveled people and people who seem to be under some sort of post traumatic syndrome. I believe the lesson of Yad Vashem (and the many other Jewish massacres) is that Israel’s best long term defense is taking up it’s Biblical call to educate the world about its loving, compassionate and merciful God – which means loving your neighbor and even your enemy. Peacemaking must be taught. What else could be a real solution? With a 20% Muslim population Israel already tries living in plurality, but so much more needs to be done on all sides. May both the church and God’s people, Israel, truly take this to heart one day. And may the end of all these terrible wars come. And let real peace come, LORD. Amen.
Oct 4 – Hot as hades until today! I think its finally cooling off and will be more bearable!
Oct 6 – Wow, had the unique privilege of attending a Christian worship event right next to the Wailing Wall/Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock/Mount Moriah, Zion, whatever you call it, many say its the holiest spot on Earth! 1500 people, mostly from South Africa, at the Davidson Center on the southern end of the Temple Mount. Hopefully freedom of worship will one day fully come back to this spot, it will truly be a “house of worship for all nations” and not exclusively for Muslims, as is the case today. Anyways, Angus Buchan is quite a speaker! This was an historic event. A group of this size probably hasn’t had the privilege of worshiping there since the first Jewish followers of Jesus gathered there 2000 years ago!
Oct 15 – While looking for a place to worship in Tel Aviv I randomly met an Ethiopian gal who dispelled some of my prejudices about Ethiopians (based on years of seeing many pleas for help on tv with their various famines) as she was smart, interesting and spoke multiple languages including French, Italian and Hebrew. Man do I feel like a dumb American!
Oct 17 – Good bye dinner with a friend headed back to New Zealand. So much coming and going…
Oct 20 – It was an action packed 30 days! Hope to follow up with some thoughts on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and more!
Let me know what you want to hear about??