Archive for June, 2009

West Salem

June 24, 2009

A last post here.  We’re back in West Salem as of last night from our trip.  New York, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee, Ceaserea, Golan Heights, Negev Desert, Mediterranean Sea, Joppa, churches, shrines, ruins, orchards, deserts, family, food, friends, and more.  Now we can add West Salem to the list.  We’re grateful to God for this opportunity, for the time away, for the learning and growing, for the joys of life.  We come back ready to see where God leads us in calling another pastor, in setting some new directions with a strategic plan, in using us to do God’s work with our hands.  Thanks for those of you who partner in this good work.

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Holocaust Museum

June 21, 2009

Our last stop in Israel was the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.  We were encouraged by our hosts to visit this memorial to the tragedy that occurred in Germany and the countries Germany took over in World War II.  It’s a well done retelling of the story of the rise of Hitler and the tragic consequences of the attempt to create a super race of Aryans.  The museum exhibits are housed in a dark concrete A frame and the story is told with pictures of the people involved both Jews and Germans.  They make the story very personal

As one reads the story on the tablets on the walls, it’s difficult to believe that people could believe what was said about Jews and the willingness of so many to exterminate a race of people.  Difficult to believe until Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, Darfur, and others come to mind.  Such slaughter is not ancient history but continues as current events.

The end of the walk through the museum is a balcony that opens out into a view of Jersualem and the hills of Israel.  One has the sense that for those who survived the holocaust that the land of Israel is their salvation from having to experience such a holocaust again.

We catch a plane early tomorrow to fly back home.  On paper it looks like a short flight–10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Unfoturnately, we also cross 7 time zones so it still is more like 11 hours.  I don’t know what they would say here in Israel, but back home I would say Uff-da!

This has been a good experience for us.  It’s our first foreign travel since 1966 when we toured Northern Europe with a college choir.  Our hosts have been more than gracious.  Our thanks to Oren and Ahna for inviting us to travel with them, and a special thanks to Oren’s family here for their kindnesses, patience, and willingness to share themselves and their country with us.  We often say, with a smile, that where we live is God’s country.  I would guess that many of those we met  would say that about Israel too.

Thanks to those who have been holding down the fort at Our Savior’s.  Thanks also to those of you who have taken the time to follow our journey and to those who have shared their comments.  I hope at some point we can share a little of our experience with you.

Galilee and Beyond

June 20, 2009

Ahna and Oren have wanted to take us back to a place they discovered when they were here three years ago–a bed and breakfast high above the Sea of Galilee.  We were able to get reservations, so we made the trek.  Off a dirt road and  behind a fairly large herd of cows in a pole shed, this couple had put up about 6 cabins that overlook Yam Kinneret, which is what the locals call the Sea of Galilee.  It was very nice accomodation with lots of amenities.  It included a big breakfast brought to your cabin.  We ate at a very nice restaurant across the road.  Our young waitress was very much taken with our grandson, Ezra.  I didn’t know if we’d get to take him home that night or not.

On Friday we went up on the Golan Heights, which were seized by Israel from Syria in 1967, I think.  The Isrealis consider this a very strategic piece of ground, so are unlikely to be willing to give it back.  We vistied a nature preserve that is set above a very deep and steep valley.  It’s a good place for vulture watching.  On a strange hill in center of this valley is the ruins of a Jewish village from the Roman occupation.  It commemorates a win by the Jews in their wars with the Romans, but then subsequent defeat.  One of the strange things on the map of the park was an area marked “land mines”, that reminded us that there is still a high level of security in the area, though we never felt afraid.

After a trip to a winery and an olive oil plant, and leaving some American dollars, we were ready to head  back, but a dead battery in the rented car, meant a two hour wait for Hertz to bring us a new one.  Ah well.  This was the only glitch in a great couple of days.  Last night it was an evening meal with Oren’s other cousin and this morning some time on the beach of the Mediterranean.  What a life!

It’s interesting to visit a place like Galilee and think of Jesus ministry there.  It seems a sacred spot, but at the same time it’s a place where people go the beach.  We visited one beach where a few dozen kite boarders were having a great time in the late afternoon.  All along the East side of the lake, we found lots of beaches and campgrounds and even a waterpark.  It’s disconcerting, but it also helps to remind us that Jesus isn’t stuck in the first century, but is alive today, still walking the shores of the lake among the kiteboarders, sun bathers, kids building sand castles and all the rest.  That’s good to know.  If Jesus walks there, he also walks along Lake Nehonoc and the Mississippi River.

I’ll put up some pictures of Galilee and the Golan Heights.

Kiteboarding on Galilee Sunset over GalileeOlive press Village ruins

Tel Aviv–Jaffa

June 17, 2009

We’re living in the apartment of Oren’s aunt who lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv.  Today she took us to the old city of Jaffa that was here before Tel Aviv.  Tel Aviv was the capital of  Israel before Jerusalem was captured by the Isreali’s again.  It still is the main city in Israel.  The old city of Jaffa lies along the Mediterranean.  We ate down on the wharf with the commercial fishing boats nearby and the nets laying on the wharf.  The old city of Jaffa has been preserved and is now full of shops of artists.  It’s picturesque and a fun place.  Here’s some pics.

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Desert

June 17, 2009

Israel is a small country–about the size of Delaware.  Look for Delaware on a US map and it’s hard to find.  But for a small country it has a range of topography.  In the North some pretty good soil for farming and in the far south the Negeb desert.  I haven’t traveled the deserts of the US southwest, so I was surprised at how desolate it really is.  All rocks and sand with just a little vegetation.  But the air is dry and the wind is cool so it really is a pleasant place to live.  Beduin (nomads) live in the area, and it’s where we saw camels.  We visited another cousin of Oren’s who is in the Isreali air force.  He flies  attack helicopters.  We visited the base and sat in the helicopters.  The family loves the desert and hates to think of moving on to the next post which they will do in August.  We also visited a huge crater in the area.  Here’s some pictures of the area.  It’s where I imagine Jesus was during his temptation, though I think it was probably up north some place and not so much desert but deserted.  The desert is a forbidding place to those outside of it, but home for others.  Interesting how adaptable we human beings can be.

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Jerusalem at night

June 17, 2009

Monday night, Oren’s cousin took us in to see the Old City in Jerusalem at night.  It was a special thing they had done with lighting up the Old City.  Since it was something new, it seemed like everyone in Israel was trying to see it.  The traffic was horrendous and the narrow streets of the city were more than crowded.  It wasn’t so much a religious experience as a kind of party atmosphere.  I did take a picture of the Lutheran Church in the Old City and will try to attach it to this post.  Apparently Lutherans have been in Jerusalem for a long time.  There’s also a Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.  These are Arab Christians.  We had supper in Abu Gosh which is an Arab Christian village outside of Jerusalem.  This was our first lamb meal while here.

Jerusalem Lutheran Church at night

Mediterranean Sea

June 15, 2009

Today is an off day.  We spent the morning at the beach along the Mediterranean.  We had breakfast at a beach hotel cafe and then ambled along the beach.  It’s full of beautiful white sand and lots of little shells besides.  We sat in the shade of a beach umbrella enjoying an iced coffee and visited with our very generous hostess.  What a life for a boy from Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin.

I don’t know that Jesus walked these shores.  The stories we have from his life place him some distance from here.  He lived and ministered in the Galilee area:  the villages, the hills, the valleys, among the shepherds, the vineyard drerssers, the shopkeepers, etc.  Jerusalem too is far from the coast.  Interesting that someone who lived in such a limited area should have such world-wide influence.

This afternoon left time for a nap. Nice!  Tonight we go back to Jerusalem for the city at night.

Galilee

June 14, 2009

Today we traveled north to the Galilee area. This is more of an agricultural area with fields of bananas, mangos, olives and dates.  We went to Nazareth where there was a modern church of the annunciation.  Nazareth was 60% Christian at one time, but now is 40%.  So there is some trouble there.  The church celebrates the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus.

Up the road was Capernaum where Jesus probably lived in between his trips into the countryside.  The village was destroyed but some excavation has revealed a synogogue and a possible church.  Roman Catholics have built a beautiful church on the site.  From there we went to a site that commemorates the beatitudes.  This is a beautiful and peaceful site along the Sea of Galilee.

What I thought about today was Jesus walking the hills here in his ministry.  The hills are somewhat higher than some of our bluffs.  It’s rugged terrain with a lot of rocks.  As we went through Nazareth, with it’s shops and messy streets and conflict, it all brought home to me again the real world in which Jesus lived.  It wasn’t a Cecil B. DeMille movie, but a real life Jesus lived.  He dealt with the heat, the afternoon winds off the lake, the cold in winter, the agitations of people, all of it.  He truly did come into our world and share it with us.  I forget that sometimes.  So I’m grateful for this experience.

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

June 13, 2009

We spent the day in the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  The husband of a friend of Oren’s mother has been a tour guide for 45 years.  He only gives private tours now and we were blessed to have him take us into the Old City of Jerusalem.  We were able to pray at what we call the Jewish Wailing Wall which is actually a retaining wall built for the second temple.  We also visited the shrines in the Old city, walked along the Via Delarosa, visited the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and walked through the Arab market.  It was good to visit and get a sense of the topography.  It’s probably true as Bishop Arends has noted that although the sites may or may not be “the” ones, the fact that millions of people have come to these spots to confess their faith is amazing.

The trip to Bethlehem was a little more complicated.  Bethlehem is on the Palestinian side of the wall that Israel has constructed.   As a Jew our guide couldn’t go there, but he arranged for Christians on the other side to take us to the Church of the Nativity.  There Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox all have churches in the one building at the supposed site of the birth of Jesus. 

The political situation here, of course, is quite complicated.  Everyone wishes for peace, but finding it is difficult.  We can pray for that for them.

Tel Aviv

June 12, 2009

After a 10 hour overnight flight from NYC we landed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.  We were met by son-in-law Oren’s aunt and cousin.  We are experiencing Middle Eastern hospitality as Oren’s aunt is allowing us to use her apartment while she stays with a friend for the time we are here.   She lives in a nice suburb of Tel Aviv.  We are grateful.

Today is a recovery day, then a family friend who is a tour guide will  take us on a private tour to Jerusalem on Saturday and to the Galilee on Sunday.  We’re looking forward to it.  It is interesting to be in the land where Jesus walked, but also in a land that struggles to find peace.  Tonight we’ll dine by the Mediterranean with Oren’s relatives.  How good God is.