Traveling for 24+ hours is exhausting. You're excited. You're ready to go. You have a book, a magazine, an iPod, ambien, whatever you need to make the time pass while you wait to board, take off and land. Before we even left Denver, we knew our flight from JFK was already delayed.
Our first glance that we were heading to someplace "different?" In the airport we saw some Orthodox Jews praying, wearing their shawls, the seven wraps on their arms, and the scrolls on the forehead. We saw them again praying on the plane. Our flight was full - primarily of excited college-age kids heading to Israel with an organization called Birthright Israel. The next sign? The flight attendant offers you a choice of chicken, pasta or kosher.
(time passes - slowly) Finally we arrive in Tel Aviv! We all collect our luggage and go through customs. There is no arrival card or form to fill out. They know why you're there - and knew in advance that you were coming. We met our guide, Peter, on the other side of security, he shepherds us out of the air conditioning into the humidity to the bus, we meet Jawdot, our driver, and we are on our way!
We start, probably a good way for most trips to start, with a geography lesson. What is Israel now, what was it before. What happened in 1948? What happened in 1967? What is Palestine? Why is the West Bank called the West Bank? (it's on the west side of the Jordan river, in case you're curious). A little bit about the demographics of Israel (proper - not including Gaza and the West Bank): 80% is Jewish, 70% of that population is secular, 10% is ultra-Orthodox, and 20% practicing. The other 20% is Arab, including Muslims, Christians, and other groups.
Our first stop was Caesarea Martima (on the sea). As pictured below, happiness must be sitting on an ancient aqueduct overlooking the Mediterranean and smoking a water pipe.
There are two Caesarea's in Israel - this one is mentioned in Acts 10 (NIV)
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa."
After this stop we headed towards the Sea of Galilee. En route we passed by Meggido, where Armageddon will happen. Meggido fact - there are 17 ancient cities built on top of each other there. We also past Mt. Tabor and the Tabor Valley. Most armies through the history of the world who have ever gone through Israel have marched through this valley. It's a very fertile area with lots of orchards and crops.
Our lodging for our first three nights in Israel was on the Mount of Beatitudes. During the day, the grounds may be full of tourists visiting the church and eating ice cream, but at night, it is quiet, peaceful and beautiful. It's on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Every vista lent itself to amazing photos.
Views from the church and grounds
Catching the sunset
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