Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Starting to Post Pictures

For those of you interested in seeing pictures from my trip to Israel, I have gone back and added them to Day 1 HERE

Click on each day to view them.

I will continue to add photos to other posts and let you know when they are complete.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jigitty Jig

I'm home...recovering from jet lag and catching up with my family. The kids did really well and Jeff seems no worse for wear.

Speaking of Jeff, his leg pain is gone. The second doctor discovered a cyst on the back of his knee and it possible that is what caused the pain. Maybe we will never know.

We wanted to take Jeff's niece and nephew down to the ocean last night before we put them on a plane back home today. We also wanted them to have some of New England's famous fish and chips. So off we went. After dinner, we were walking by the water when someone who shall remain nameless, realized she had lost her retainer.


It was lying on the table in a napkin (and yes, she has been told to never do that).

The table was empty.

The wastebasket was not.

However, the trash that the retainer had been thrown into had already been taken out.

Another sigh.

We asked to go through it. Yep. How totally gross is that?

They got several bags out for us. Gave us gloves. We went through it all, piece by disgusting piece.

Did I mention how gross it was?

But we pressed on.

And on.

Alas, said expensive hardware was never found.

Good times.

Welcome home and back to parenthood.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Temple Mount and the Garden Tomb

Today was a day that I am going to be processing for awhile.
So full.
So emotional.

I will try to put it into words the best I can.

We started out at the Temple Mount. As you may know, the site is famous for several reasons. It is Mt. Moriah, the place where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed. It is the site of the threshing floor where the Angel of Death stopped after David's sin of taking a census. David purchased it and then Solomon built the temple there. The Romans destroyed the Temple 70 years (I think) after Jesus died. Years later, the Muslims built a mosque there that still stands today. The Bible says that someday, the temple will be rebuilt on that location.
No Jew will enter the Temple Mount area for reasons that may surprise you. When the Temple was there, the Holy of Holies was a place that only the high priest could enter once a year. Since no one knows for sure the exact location, the Jews are afraid they might accidentally step there and be struck dead on the spot.
We entered through the same screening station as the Wailing Wall and in fact walked right past it again. It's directly on the other side of the wall that surrounds the mosque. We saw riot gear like this,
There were also large bullet-proof shields propped against the wall. It is a sobering reminder of the constant threat of unrest. Our guide has neighbors who work as policemen there and he said it is a very dangerous job. There are groups of men all over the grounds who sit and wait for a phone call telling them to start a riot. We were told to be on our best behavior after our 'laughing' incident the other day--{tongue in cheek}. Two women in our group were told to cover up or leave. They were wearing shirts that got rejected for modesty. Honestly, they were not immodest (shirts cannot be tank tops or low cut--their shirts were neither). Thankfully, we had some scarves to cover them up.
The men sit here every day and read the Koran, talk and pray

I felt uncomfortable around the men there. I guess just knowing they consider us 'the great satan' is rather unnerving. There is just a sense of unease in the air. They don't smile. They look intense all the time. I walked around the mosque walls praying--praying that they would see Jesus. That they would understand how much He loves them. That they don't have to live in the bondage of hatred and unhappiness.

After exiting the mosque area, we walked to the bus. On our way, we passed the Eastern Gate. Oh my goodness...I get goosebumps every time I see it! Just to picture Jesus riding a donkey through those gates and then the promise in Scripture that one day, those gates will be unsealed and He will walk through them again. Wow...

Then it was on to the pool of Bethesda. The 'pools' mentioned in the Bible were actually cisterns or reservoirs for holding water. Israel doesn't have a lot of water, so they had to collect rain water. Bethesda is the place where the lame man was cured on the Sabbath and the Pharisee's got their shorts in a wad over the man carrying his mat. Wouldn't want to seem like anyone was working.....
Don't you just want to say, "get over yourselves, Pharisee's!"
Yeah. Me, too.
Bethesda was near the Sheep Gate. That is because it was also close to the temple. The people could bring their sheep through the gate, wash the animal and then take it to be sacrificed.

We then went to the Holocaust museum. This is the part I am still processing. How do you put into word the hideous actions of the Nazi's? How does one's heart get so hard that they can tear a baby from it's mother and kill them both? I saw the posters the Nazi's made and hung around their country before they even started killing the Jews. Their first targets were those with special needs. They had posters that said, "No hope for life," and "Idiot" with a photo of a mentally challenged person. Those with physical special needs were not spared either. A chill went through me as I realized that my Chloe. My SaraGrace. My Jordan. My Katie. My Zoey. And my Jakie, would have been murdered by the Nazi's. Tears filled the eyes of all of us who walked through the exhibits as we saw video of Nazi's herding the Jews to the camps. It is so difficult to comprehend such unspeakably heinous crimes against another human being. I am still seeing the piles of shoes, books, a child's toy, a child's shoe or shirt. The electric fences. The boxcars. But most of all, I am seeing the faces. Faces of somber children. Faces of terrified mothers. Faces of father's trying to be strong for their families. Faces of old men and women, beaten, tired and starving.

I felt the fear. No, I could taste the fear. The oppression that is the result of the evil one.

And I felt angry. Very, very angry.

Never forget. Ever.

We left the museum quietly. Processing what we had seen.

Thankfully, our next and final stop of our tour was the Garden Tomb.
Where HOPE is found!
Tears are turned to joy.

This location was only found in the 1800's by a man who was cleaning up the area. It had become a garbage dump. He found the tomb and upon further excavations, they noticed the large rock that looked like a face (or a skull, if you will). It was kind of a small cliff--or hill.
Not far from this spot is the intersection of a busy road that connects Damascus and another prominent city (Jericho?). The Romans often put crosses next to roads so that people could spit on the criminals as they walked by. It would not be unusual for Jesus to have been hung near a road like that.
The garden

John 19: 41 tells us , "The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before." In John 19:17, 18 it says, "Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they crucified him..."
So...this location has all the elements listed in Scripture and could very possibly be the place. I cannot even put into words how I felt standing at that tomb.
Imagining Jesus' body lying there.
Imagining Mary Magdalene and Mary arriving at the tomb early Sunday morning.
And soon after, Peter and the others running, running, running...and stooping down to look inside but not finding him.

You may notice the track to the left of the opening (which incidentally, was made taller. It was probably about half that tall in Jesus' day). Anyway....the track. It is for the stone. We often think, "large boulder" when we read about the stone. But it was actually a stone that looked like this:

Here is another view of the track that the stone would have been put into...

The inside--very small, as you can see.

Possibly the place where He laid.
#4 is the place where a body has lain. We know that by the pillow that was there. There was no pillow in #7 (child sized burial) or #8.

After visiting the tomb, we went to a different spot in the garden to take communion. My dad gave a devotional that I want to share with you.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan, the feast of Unleavened Bread (our Palm Sunday). This is a significant holiday for the Jewish people as they also celebrate Passover.
During Passover, it is Lamb Selection Day.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the Lamb...offering Himself up as the selected Lamb.
Jesus died on the 14th day of Nisan - which is the Passover Day of Sacrifice.
Jesus was the ultimate Sacrifice.
(He used the date of the Galilee calendar for the 10th and the Jerusalem calendar for the 14th, so for those of you doing the math, it IS correct. The two calendars have a one day difference.)

On the Passover Day of Sacrifice, the lamb had to be sacrificed between 3-5PM.
Jesus died at 3PM (the ninth hour).

In preparation for the first passover, the Israelites were told to put blood on three side of their doors, so that when the angel of death came, he would pass over them.
Jesus shed his blood so we would be passed over for eternal death and instead have eternal LIFE.

At the last supper, the disciples were focused on the lamb they planned to offer at the Temple. Jesus probably shocked them when he broke the bread and said, "This is MY body." Or in other words...I am the LAMB that will be offered this passover.

The details of Scripture are so amazing...dates, times, and word pictures. God is the same God of detail today and He cares about his little lambs with the same attention to detail. So feel loved, little lambs. He is watching over us.
The grave could not hold Him!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wailing Wall, Old City Jerusalem

Model of the Temple--notice how it towered over the wall that surrounded it. It was 20 stories tall! It was much taller than the mosque that currently sits in the same location. I can only imagine the majesty of the site when looking at Jerusalem from a distance. People would have been little dots in this model. This entire model is the temple and it's grounds. There was a large platform built by Herod as a favor to the Jews. It is surrounded with the wall that you see (wall is still there today). The city was around it, and was also surrounded by a wall.
To the back of the Temple model was Hebron--where David reigned his first seven years. It was much smaller than I imagined it. It looks no bigger than that Temple grounds.

We started the day at the Wailing Wall in old city Jerusalem. Oh my....it was very moving. They separate the men and women so we could only go to the section for women (obviously). My brother took pictures on the men's side. There were many ages there. Some women reciting prayers--probably for blessing--and some in obvious distress, probably asking for help from God. There were many pieces of paper with prayers on them stuck into the cracks in the wall and some that had fallen on the ground. We all took turns putting our hands on the wall and praying for the people who live there. Praying they would see Jesus as their true Messiah.

Entrance to the old city. You need to have your bags screened and walk through a scanner.
Men's side of the Wailing Wall. The Jews do not call it the Wailing Wall. They call it the Old Western Wall. You can see the proximity of the Dome of the Rock behind the wall. Tantalizingly
close...but their entrance to the former site of their temple is blocked.

Prayer books are available at the Wall.
My mom took this photo and when she got home, realized how profound it was. There is an older Jewish lady praying at the wall...seeking the Messiah...looking but not finding Him. I am standing behind her with the answer to her prayers written on my shirt. "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son...." I didn't even think about the places we would be visiting when I wore that shirt that day. My dad said when he saw the photo, the Scripture John 7:36 came to mind, 'You will look for Me, but you will not find Me."
The Jews go there every day looking for the Messiah who has already come.

This cup sits in a small fountain area that people were using to wash their hands. I never saw anyone drink from this--not sure if that is what it was for--but thought it interesting.
Snuck this shot as this guy exited his section of the wall

We then continued on for a walk through the Old City of Jerusalem. I'm sure we only hit some of the high points. We walked through the Western Wall Heritage Tunnel...another breathtaking feat of engineering. When the Jews regained some of the city, they wanted to do some excavating. However, there were Muslim homes in the way so they decided to go under the city. They built a tunnel from one end of the wall to another. We walked through it and were able to see some amazing sections that are being excavated. We could see down deep in the ground where the streets from Jesus' time were visible. SO AMAZING. We ended up at the fortress where Jesus would most likely have been questioned by Pilate. There is a pool of water there that served as a reservoir. We came out onto the Via Dolorosa, the memorial site of the possible path that Jesus walked to the cross. It is probably not the true site but it's still very moving to walk on it. (Well, that is until you stop part way and eat pizza...but we DO have to eat!)

Inside the tunnel
Large rock at the bottom: possible Corner Stone of the temple. It was unbelievably huge. You can see all the people standing in front of it. And it continued on each side for another 15 feet or so.
still inside the tunnel

the reservoir

After lunch we continued down the Via Dolorosa and arrived at the place where some believe Jesus was crucified. There is a very ornate church there, which we toured.

The Via Dolorosa is lined with small shops, much the same as we see in China. Shop owners are hawking their wares. There are children walking with their parents, families, older people talking business and a general bustle all around.
I have always imagined that everything in the city stopped that day that Jesus walked to the cross. And while I believe it was certainly an out of the ordinary event for some, I also think that many people continued to do what they normally did each day. They shopped. They ate. They prepared for Passover. It was a holiday and I'm guessing that many took little note of what was happening to Jesus that day. The hustle and bustle probably continued all around him as he made His way to the cross.
They didn't notice their King, the One who loved them enough to die for them, was heading to the cross to give them the right to be called His sons and daughters.

This lady was very mad at me for taking this photo. Oops.... She wanted me to pay her $10. Um...no.

Typical Jewish family

We see a lot of these guys walking around. They don't shave their sideburns and let their hair grow into long curls on each side. I know there is a significance but I don't remember what it is and I'm too tired to look it up right now.
This is at the base of the Western Wall. At the very top of the photo is the covered ramp to the Mosque. On the other side of the ramp (out of view) is the Wailing Wall. On the right is the wall, to the left is a row of shops. This is where the animals for sacrifice were sold to people who came from a distance. This is also where the money changers set up shop. They would exchange currency from other places with the Jerusalem sheckles and usually give a very poor exchange rate, ripping people off. The animals were also sold at ridiculously high prices. This is one reason why Jesus overthrew the tables.
These rocks were thrown over the wall at enemy soldiers.
The height from which they were thrown.
You can see the deep indentions in the pavement where the rocks fell
Close-up of the rocks

Close-up of the row of shops.
Interior of one of the shops. They were quite small.
View of the shops from behind
another view of the shops
This corner is thought to possibly be the pinnacle of the temple.

"...to the place of trumpeting to..."

The ritual bath, near the shops. If people needed to be cleansed prior to offering a sacrifice, they would enter on the right side of the steps, bathe, and exit on the left side so as not to come in contact with anyone who was unclean.
Original steps leading up to one of the gates of the temple platform.
Mark leaning against the wall at the top of the steps.
Ruins of the arch over the original gate
The steps under the new coating are the ones that were there in Jesus' day.
View of the ruins from the base of the steps
Drawing of Robinson's Arch that went over the shops--with a huge staircase to the left that went up to the temple platform.

We ended the day at a museum for the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was really neat to be able to see them. No photography allowed. Drat... Here are some misc. street scenes instead:

There were no international incidents today...all was quiet. We have noted that we have bomb shelters on every floor of our hotel. And we are in room 911. (insert scary music)
We attended a lecture tonight (optional) by one of the guides who has written a book on Jewish history. I was transfixed. Soooo interesting. I learned so much. I took almost two pages of notes but I am too tired to share them with you tonight. Time to get some rest--especially since my throat is scratchy and I hope I am not getting sick.

Best T-shirt of the day: