Saturday, October 20, 2007

Israel Day 4 Road to Jerusalem

We had yet another packed day. We started at 8:30 and didn’t end until 11 p.m. But now I’m up, listening to the entire church bells ring and ready for another day. It is no wonder that no one wants to give up Jerusalem because it is beautiful!

Our first stop yesterday after leaving the Kibbutz (where I also evidently left my credit card –another story but all taken care of now) was Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation. This is a church built around a beautiful grotto and over the remains of a 1st Century home. Tradition tells us that this is where the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she would have a son named Jesus. In the church, people from all over the world have donated beautiful mosaics of Mary. It was gorgeous.

Then since we were packing in more than anyone should do in one day, we quickly left (without checking out the many wonderful stores there). Next stop was Tzippori, which was the 1st century capital of Galilee and an important archeological site. There we saw a beautiful mosaic floor that has somehow survived. It features a portrait that they believe is a picture of the lady of the house made of over 1000 tiles. They call her the “Mona Lisa” of the Galilee because she has an enigmatic smile and her eyes appear to follow you.

Then we were quickly off to Megiddo or the name that some of you may be more familiar with Armageddon which simply means Mount (Har) of Megiddo. Believe it or not, it is a beautiful place where we saw the ruins of walls dating back to the days of Solomon! It was very fascinating and I’ll have more to share later. We did end up at the very top of the fortress with a fundamentalist group where we had the scary experience of hearing a teacher/preacher say that it was on that very spot that Jesus predicted 9/11 which is of course hogwash!

Speaking of hogwash, our tour guide Jacob has a wonderful gift of storytelling and is very knowledgeable but he is very very prejudiced against Arabs and I suspect women. At one point, I turned to someone and said, “Can he go just five minutes without making a disparaging comment about Arabs?” He seems a strange fit for an interfaith group!

We had lunch at Megiddo and then headed on our final leg to Jerusalem. We arrived at our hotel early afternoon before the beginning of Shabbat. The hotel is beautiful and our rooms overlook hell. Yes, I’m serious. Our hotel overlooks the Valley of Gehanna, the New Testament word for hell. IT was in this valley that a terrible sacrifice of children occurred and in Jesus’ day it was the landfill with a fire burning all the time. Today it is simply beautiful.

After moving in our rooms, we walked to the Western Wall through the Old City. We got there in time to welcome the Sabbath. I can’t begin to tell you how joyful an experience it was. We call it the Wailing Wall but I did not hear any wailing instead folks were dancing and singing and praying. It was beautiful. Robin, Alice and I were able to enter the women’s side. There we touched the wall and prayed. If that is the site of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac folks have been praying to God there for over 3000 years! I couldn’t take any pictures because of Shabbat, but we’ll be there later in the trip and I will take some.

Then we went back to the hotel for Shabbat dinner with the director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI) which will be directing our studies here. We had a traditional Jewish Sabbath dinner and then sat around a round table (which by the way for those who don’t know is the name of our group) and talked about interreligious dialogue in Israel. By the time we finished it was 11!

Today is another busy day and I can’t wait to see it all!

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