Experiences Never To Be Forgotten

Our retreat time is over. We are packed and ready for a great day. This will be a big day. This may prove to be a long day. We are ready. Today we leave our cottages and seaside kibbutz and head back to the southwestern part of the country. Before we land in Jerusalem there are a few stops we need to make along the way.

In trying to get everything done on Day 8 we had to give up a couple of stops. One of those stops we will driving by as we head west. Our first stop is Mt. Precipice along the edge of Nazareth. Some have said this is the spot where the people of Nazareth tried to put Jesus off the edge of a cliff for claiming he was fulfilling the scriptures.  It is a high place, there is no doubt about it. However, in Jesus’ time it would have also been miles outside of town. They would have had to chased him into the next county before they got to Precipice, so I don’t really buy that story. What I do love about this place is its pure grandeur. You can get a 360 view on Mt Precipice that is unequaled to any other. From this place you can see all of Nazareth along one side. You begin to turn around and you can see Mt. Tabor, then, Mt Moresh, proceeding to Megiddo and all the way to Mt. Carmel. You see the strategic hills and the traveling routes of the centuries. There is God in all this earthly splendor.

We move on from here and move up to Megiddo. We find layers and layers of civilization built one on top of the others. There are some fantastic sites of leftover homes, stables, palaces, food storage and finally the water system. After making our way up this tall Tel of mountain, I guess we do have to come back down. We take the steps around the vast water cistern and into a tunnel that leads to a hidden spring. I thank God that we did not have to climb back up those stairs. At end of the spring is a smaller set of steps that leads us out the opposite end of the Megiddo stronghold and right down a path to where our bus is waiting for us.

Next we move further still to the place where Elijah challenges the worshipers of Baal. They have a BBQ and only a true God knows how to BBQ. Baal is a no show, but God, our God, show in a mighty way. The site is built on a tall tower where we climb, yet again, to see everything around us.  This time we see  the tall Tels and mountains we had seen from the other side. This time, we turn back to the west and we can actually see the Mediterranean Sea. What a great sight to behold.

I’m tired and hungry. We stop at a nearby village for some lunch. It must be Senior Skip day. There are a group of students in a caravan of cars, celebrating to beat the band. In and out of town they go with horns beeping and shouts of joy coming from their lips. It was kind of fun just watching them.

We board the bus, once again, and head a little further south and over to the edge of the western seaboard. We land at Caesarea Maritima.  There is a magnificent range of beauty at the place of long history. There is an Amphitheater, a Race Track, remains of Palaces, Stores, Temples and Synagogues. In the mix is a variety of new editions as the authorities are trying to bring Caesarea back to life. But the show stopper is that as far as the eye can see is the Mediterranean Sea washing up along a beautiful shore. Who wouldn’t want to live here? Caesarea has a ling rich history. Most significant in its story for Christians is that Herod built it to be the show-stopper that it was. There is proof that Pilate himself spent some time there. And, finally, this is the place where Paul was held before he was sent to Rome for his trial at the end of his ministry.

Just around the corner we find a chance to go play in the Med. There are some remains of a Roman Aqueduct system just over on the edge of Caesarea and right on Mediterranean Sea.  We get out for some time of pure relaxation. Some play on the beach. Some are playing in the water. Some of us have found shade, beach chairs and an Ice Cream Bar, It just doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks Be to God. Amen.

We have just one more stop before making our way to Jerusalem and into our new lodging. We have six suitcases of school supplies and some special gifts to drop off at the Christian School in Aboud.  Miss Suhaila has been emailing and calling to see when we were arriving. We had told her around 5 PM and it looks like we are actually pretty much on schedule.  We wind our way through the good roads and on to a few that are not so good. We bypass some Cities and towns and Settlements and find a sign that says Aboud. We find there a quiet village. We make our way down a hill to find Miss Suhaila and some of her family at the door ready to greet us.

This is like coming home. She greets me eagerly with a kiss and I know I am exactly where I should be. We open the bus to reveal our gifts for the school. One, two, three…six fully packed suitcases. It will be like Christmas for her, until she realizes that there is so much stuff it will begin to feel like spring cleaning. She says that she is up to the challenge and accepts it willingly.  Our group is welcomed as if they were all old friends. We get the grand tour of the facility and hear many great stories of the ministry and the school. We are invited up the multi-purpose room where she has, at my request, set out some things others might buy in order to offer further support to the school. She also invites us to sit and have an early supper with her and the family. She has fixed my favorite. It is a large flat bread that is covered with spices and small pieces of onion. This is drizzled with olive oil and baked.  It is tremendous. She has also fixed Chicken and Vegetables and Easter filled Cookies for dessert. We are stuffed.

The hotel in Jerusalem is calling us to see when we will arrive. The sun is about to set. I present Miss Suhaila with some other gifts, as do a couple of our other group members. We help clean up and reluctantly board the bus, once more.

After we have left, Najeeb lets us know that we will be passing a rather strict checkpoint since we will be leaving the West Bank and heading into Jerusalem.  He was right.  When we get to the checkpoint we are asked to get off the bus. We claim our luggage and take it into a station. In the station we are asked to run all of our items through a scanner and to walk through a scanner ourselves. We are then asked to present our passport and explain where we have been and where were going. We tell them we are tourist that have been in the North staying in Tiberias and were heading for a new hotel in Jerusalem.  They send us on our way.  This took approximately 30 minutes. Even as clearly we were American Tourists we had to be checked. The local traveling this path every day are asked to do the same, every day. There is an alternate route, I know you are asking, as long as you are willing to go 65 miles out of the way, each way.

Wow, what a day. We have arrived in Jerusalem where we will stay for the remainder of our journey. All of our mission work is done and we will do some sight-seeing for the last few days in the Jerusalem area. This has, and is, a great journey. Thanks Be To God. Amen.