Monday, April 26, 2010

Why the Old City is my Favorite City

Seriously.  It is.  There is just something about it.  A beauty amidst the rough.  Aged.  Rugged.  Still here against all odds.  Jesus' city.  My city.  Oh, how I love it!

For Christmas, my parents gave us a tour guide.  Not to keep forever, but for one day.  He was the best!  He totally got us and gave us one of our favorite days in Israel! (Do you see a theme here?)

We started the day at the Damascus Gate.  Mostly because it is the closest to the garden.  I spotted this man right off ... he actually zipped by us as we were going down the steps.  For the record, if I had to carry something on my head for any length of anywhere, we all know it would end up on the ground.  This wasn't the first time I saw this guy ... and, it wasn't the last.

We went to see St. Anne's church (great acoustics) and the pool of Bethsada.  Sick and crippled would lie around the pool waiting for the water to move ... they believed that the first one in the pool would be healed.

I must interject here.  We were asked many times if we felt safe.  Never once did we fear for our lives or question if we should have come.  Even when we were constantly surrounded by this ...

soldiers were EVERYWHERE.  And the man standing up?  He has canisters of tear gas.  Vincent said he had never seen that before.  Which is why I took the picture ... because I had never seen it before and who knows when I will see it again?

Things were tense in the Old City while we were there.  These men had probably spent the night in the Old City keeping trouble at bay.

We did ask if we could take a picture.  One said we could if we did it "with respect." Torrey is 14 ... I daresay these young men aren't too many years older.  The things these boys have seen and will see makes my mama's heart want to break for them.  With respect?  Oh, yes.  And with gratitude ... they are the reason we felt so safe and the reason we know my parents are safe while they are in Israel.

Vincent next took us to the Temple Mount ... aka The Dome of the Rock.  We had tried Sunday, but because of the tension it was closed.  This was our one and only chance.  We were thankful to be able to go all the way up.

Not because of the building behind us.  Although, it was impressive.  We loved being up there because it was the site of the temple.  And, it will be the site of the temple again.  These pictures show one portion of the Temple Mount ... and it looks immense.  I wish I had a better one to show you how truly enormous it was.  Incredible.  Absolutely incredible!

I am a sucker for handmade things.  Each and every one of these tiles was painted by hand.  By hand.  Can you imagine?  Artisans continue to restore and replace tiles as they are needed ... they cover the entire building.

We couldn't go inside.  We aren't muslim.  However, 22 years ago I did go inside ... there is just a rock inside.  Hence the name "Dome of the Rock."  I think it was the rock where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice Isaac.  I'm not to up on my Muslim these days.

To leave the Temple Mount we had to go through the cotton market.  There is a gate at the entrance and it had this small door.  This small door is called "the eye of the needle." It was used long ago when the city was shut up tight at night.  If you were trying to get into the city after the gates were closed you had to go through this little door.  Maybe a camel could fit through ... if he was small enough.

We then went to the archaeological museum.  It is located at the corner of where the temple would have been.  When the temple was destroyed in AD 70, they destroyed it from the top down.  Basically they pushed the walls down and thus saved large portions of the temple for the future.  This is a mikveh.  A ritual bath.  You would go down one side and get clean and then come up the other side and go to the temple.

The Hurva Synagogue reopened on Torrey's 14th birthday.  It had been closed since it was destroyed during the war in 1948.  1948.  62 long years later it reopened ... on my girl's birthday.  When we celebrated her birthday in Israel.  We tried to get in, but it wasn't open.

This is the cardio.  Basically a Roman street.  Today there are shops on either side.  It is quite beautiful.  Look at the floor/street.  Amazing.

When you are 14, you might think looking at a lot of really old things is quite boring.  Two thumbs up for Tor ... she hung in there with the best of them and really enjoyed herself.  I think she dreams of returning the most!

After meandering through the Jewish quarter, we got to go up on the roofs.  We took a "Walk on the Roofs" ... something I saw in the guide book that looked amazing to me.  Without Vincent it would have been impossible ... we never would have found the staircase that led us to the roofs.

The view up there was quite incredible.

It seemed like beauty was all around us.

But, I am a people watcher.  Well, more correctly, I am nosy.  Very, very nosy.  And, I will also admit I am intrigued by the orthodox Jews.

So, it was neat for me to be able to see them, close to their home, doing what they do ... without feeling like I was gawking.  But, as I look back, perhaps I was.

We loved our time in the Old City.  We felt like we had gone back in time, however, there were bits of "today" that reminded us that although we speak different languages, live thousands of miles apart, we are much the same.  We take care of our families and the places we live with joy.

We express ourselves with the written word ... although, I will admit I have never expressed myself with graffiti.  But, again, it is the handmade thing ...

And, no matter where you live, or how you live, children are just scrumptious.

I figure this little guy is probably 5 ... his brother 3.  He just walked with him all over the Old City (I saw him twice) ... no parent in sight.  We were holding tight onto our 14 year old.  After I took his picture he put his hand up in front of me and said something ... felt a little bad, but not too much!

Thanks Vincent (and Mom and Dad) for a most amazing day!  Next time we go back we want Vincent for more than just one day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Camel, a Fort and a Sea

On Monday night a breeze blew in and out of Jerusalem.  As it blew out, it took with it the dern khamasin.  Which meant we woke up to two great things on Tuesday morning ...
... clear skies and a 14 year old Torrey!  Can you imagine a better place to spend your 14th (or any!) birthday?!  We hit the ground running (are you surprised?!) and headed out of Jerusalem to spend the day in the desert.  
Even in the desert there was beauty.  We were in awe of the vastness of the desert ... and we are Texans who take great pride in the vastness of our state.  Texas has nothing on Israel!
We stopped along the highway for Dean and Torrey to ride the camel.  This guy stands out here every day giving camel rides.  Well worth the 15 shekels!  As you can see, we were currently at Sea Level ... before the end of the day we would be at the lowest place on earth.  And, the bedouin guy ... he lives in the hills behind us ... him and his camel.  We joked that he probably drives a mercedes compliments of crazy tourists who are willing to pay 15 shekels to ride a camel!
Clearly this wasn't his first rodeo because bedouin guy has mad photography skills.  He insisted on taking the picture ... thus ensuring we got our 15 shekels worth!
Then he took the camel (and Dean and Torrey) and posed them in front of the desert.  At this point I was beginning to think we got a steal for the 15 shekels!
And, yes, the Staples Easy button was in every camel picture we took.  Another reason we have to go back ... to get camel pictures without the easy button!  
After taking a bazillion pictures with the camel (and easy button), we jumped in the car and continued to our next destination ... MASADA.  Along the way we stopped the car so I could take a picture of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1967.  For over a thousand years scrolls of the scriptures were protected in giant jars ... only to be discovered by a shepherd boy throwing rocks in caves as he tended his goats.  God says His Word will remain forever.  Forever.
We got to Masada and took a cable car to the top of the mountain.  Masada is a fort that at one time was Herod's summer palace ... yes, THE Herod who wanted to kill baby Jesus.  When the Temple was destroyed (along with Jerusalem), a small group of Jews went to Masada and held it against the Roman Army for over 2 years.  Soldiers in the Israeli army are sworn in at Masada, today.  It is a place of great honor to the Israelis.

From the top you can see to the Dead Sea all the way to the Mountains of Moab.  We were lucky this day ... the mountains were taking on a purple hue.  It was breathtaking.  
Dean and I trekked down a lot of stairs to go to the site of Herod's palace.  It sits in the front of Masada (in the crows nest).  Halfway down I realized that I would have to climb back UP those stairs.  Oh my.  Worth the trip.  The breezes were amazing ... which is why he built the palace there.  And the view ... gorgeous!
We rode the cable car back down.  Next time I am going to take that curvy path down ... it is called the "snake path" ... as we went down we saw many brave souls giving it a shot.  So, count that as another reason we HAVE to go back ... so I can try the snake path!
After eating lunch (yummy falafels!) and stalking Chuck Swindoll, we stopped at the Dead Sea.  So called because of the high content of salt ... nothing can live in the water.
Again ... loving the view!  
Torrey braved the water.  It was warmer here.  We were cracking up at the swimmers who would go "floating" by ... because of the salt you don't sink!  You can see the mountains of Moab right behind Torrey ... that is actually Syria.  A bit too close for comfort.  
It was a pretty spectacular birthday for our girl ... can't believe she is 14!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pastor Shepherd Movie Premiere

On Friday night, Dean and I had a chance to go to a movie premiere.  I work with Roxanne and her husband is many things ... one of them being an actor.  He starred in a movie called Pastor Shepherd.  So, off to the red carpet we went!
Somehow, Don made this face throughout the entire movie.  Dean and I have since tried and it is next to impossible.  Go ahead and try ... it is hard!
We went in to get our seats and they sent us back out to watch the stars come down the red carpet.  I was thrilled.  I made Dean stand on the carpet ... because when would we ever be invited back to a movie premier?
Me and the rest of the Kindergarten team.  Roxanne is our assistant.  We all came out to support her and Don.
Roxanne and her boys Alex and Max.  Love her.  Love them.  She is moving to teach PE next year ... I am officially mourning.  And, I often remind her that I cried with her last year when she didn't get a PE job ... but, I am quick to tell her now that they were tears of joy.  She sees me at my best and worst and loves me anyway.  And, that is the definition of a true friend.

And, I will interject here that she is a crazy runner.  She ran the Grand Canyon. She started at one rim and ran down, across and then BACK UP the other side.  Seriously.
Donald coming in to the premiere.  Taking paparazzi pictures is harder than it looks.  Props to the paparazzi out there ... as long as they aren't taking pictures of me!

We had a fun night with friends.  Hopefully the movie will come to a theatre near you soon!

Here, There and Everywhere

You may want to get a cup of coffee ... this post is a doozy.  I may be a bit obsessed with taking pictures.  Just a bit.  
We started our day where we left off ... in Galilee.  We had a most delicious breakfast (Israeli style) and hit the road running.  The Khamasin was still in effect, so unfortunately our view of Galilee and most everything else was hindered.  These are the horns of Hittin ... they were beautiful, even amidst the dust.
We went to the Mount of Beatitudes next.  Again, the dust.  Oy!  But, again, it was easy to picture Jesus preaching to the multitudes here.  The mount runs right down to the Sea of Galilee ... making an amphitheater.  Because how could all those people hear His words without the microphones and speakers of today?
There was a church at the top of the mount ... it was packed with people.  Dad, Dean and I waited outside.  Guess who went in?
Sitting in the gardens at the Mount of Beatitudes.  Israel was full of beauty ... the flowers were amazing.  
I kid you not.  Absolutely amazing!
Next we went to the Church of the Multiplication (you know ... loaves and fishes?)  We went for the floor ... the mosaics on the floor were done during the 5th century.  That is old.  
In the gardens of the church.  While we were there, we were amused by some birds building their nests in the rafters of the church.  
Then we were off to the Church of the Primacy of Peter.  There is a big rock in the middle of the church where it is believed Jesus said "Upon this rock I will build my Kingdom."  We didn't really go to see the rock ... we were looking for a spot to ...

put our toes in the Sea of Galilee.  Amazing.  Somewhere along this shoreline, Jesus called His disciples.  Somewhere along this shoreline, a small boy shared his lunch.  Somewhere along this shoreline, Jesus walked on the water.  Somewhere along this shoreline, Jesus put His feet in the water just like my girl.
Please, Lord, let her feet always desire to be Your feet.  Wearing the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace.  Walking in your footsteps.  Pleasing you in all she does.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  Matthew 4:19
Then we were off again to Capernaum.  We saw Simon Peter's house ... you know, where Jesus healed Peter's mother in law?  Jesus also healed a paralytic in Capernaum.
Some excavated buildings in the town.  In the background is the synagogue. 
In case you are wondering ... yes, we did feel the effects of jet lag.  And, yes, my family does not really enjoy the taking of pictures.  Perhaps I am to blame.  
Dean and Torrey wandering through the synagogue.
This is me and my mom.  This picture will always be special to me ... because it was right after she told me the I was her favorite.  Sorry Laurie, Steve and Jen. But, it is time that you knew the truth.  
Then we continued our crazy day of travel to Mount Carmel ... which is where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and won.  Standing at the top of Mount Carmel, you can see the valley where the Battle of Armageddon will be fought.  Unless you are in the middle of a dust storm.  Which is why we want to go back to Israel!
Even with the dust, there is beauty everywhere in Israel.  My first visit I imagined a country full of dust, dirt and deserts.  This is what I found.  Beauty.

The view from the top.  The windy view from the top.
Our day still wasn't finished.  We jumped in the car and went to Caesarea to see the aqueducts that were used during the Roman Empire.

I will stop here to say that there was a disastrous side trip to Nazareth.  Not only did we get lost, there was traffic and when we got to our destination the thing we were going to see was closed.  It did make for some laughs and some fun(?) family memories.

But, back to the aqueducts.  They are right along the Mediterranean Sea.  And, they were quite impressive.

Cute family picture ... had hoped for a Christmas card picture ... but, alas, not to be.  Still a great memory.

Dean and Torrey both put their feet in the water.  It was cold.  And, that was all I needed to hear to keep my shoes on my feet!
Oh, how I love them both ... and how grateful  I was to share this adventure with them!
The beauty of the water.  The beauty of our girl.  Truly an amazing day.

Just so I remember ... as we were heading down to the water, a bus full of girls pulled into the parking lot.  We heard them before we saw them ... because as soon as they got off the bus they were screaming.  And then running and screaming for the water.  They never stopped screaming.  Never.  They kind of made me stop and look at the water in a different light.  Because when did seeing the ocean stop being something of wonder and majesty?  When did it become same old same old?  I never want the beauty of God's creation to become something I tire of it ... I want to look at it with amazement and wonder.  Just like those girls.
And, with that we were off.  Back to Jerusalem.  Back to the Garden.