November 11, 2005

To Israel, part 2

Our first few days in Israel were spent in the region of Galilee….our hotel was right on the Sea of Galilee. (which is really a large lake, not a sea) The first day we got onto a ferry and rode it across the Sea of Galilee, which was a beautiful experience being on the lake that Jesus spent so much time on. I wondered if we would run into a storm in the middle of the lake. It only sprinkled on us, but seeing those waves would have been awesome!

The Galilee region is beautiful! With God’s help, the Israeli people have made this land into an abundant, productive country. A very common thing to see is a kibbutz, which is a group of people who live on a large piece of land and farm it. Each person on a kibbutz is treated equally. They are not paid, but are provided for and it is an enjoyable atmosphere. A lot of immigrants come into the country through a kibbutz because they not only run a farm or sometimes a side business along with the farm, they also teach new immigrants Hebrew and how to assimilate into Israeli culture. Our guide was a Jewish immigrant from Sweden. She came here 25 years ago and lived on a kibbutz for a year. Her stories are wonderful and she has taught us so much about modern Israel as well as the Holy land sites. While we are here, we are not to try to convert all the Jews that we see. We would not be welcome in this country long if we did. But I feel like we are a witness by caring about the Jews, acknowledging that they are God’s people still and supporting them in building up their rightful homeland again. Our guide as well as our guard are both Jewish immigrants, as well as our driver, who was born here. They love their country, they welcome tourists, especially Americans, to see their country and are preparing it for more and more Jewish immigrants to be able to return here. Now that they have a safe place to return to, there are thousands and thousands of Jewish people around the world who want to move here.

Every valley you see here is filled with agriculture….date, orange, grapefruit, mango, banana, avocado, apricot, plum and of course, olive groves. There are also cotton, pomegranates, figs, grape vineyards, as well as any kinds of garden vegetables you can think of. The Israeli people have created innovative ways to use water as well. Every plant that you walk by has a discreet little hose around it or by it that is a drip system to maximize water’s effectiveness. For several decades now, Israel has been planting tree after tree, reforesting the land. It used to be forested, but was cut down by usurpers making way for railroads. The forests are lovely too! Tall pines, cypress, and everywhere you go, you see huge eucalyptus trees. These were brought over from Australia as a gift to Israel and they are thriving!

The police and security are everywhere, so we feel very safe, although there are some areas we are not allowed to go to right now, even though they are part of this country. There are peaceful settlements of Muslims or Palestinians in every city, but there are also those that are volatile and possibly dangerous for tourists. Two of these that we were disappointed about are Bethlehem and Jericho. We got to peek over into both Bethlehem and Jericho from other places. Each looks like a regular city in Israel now, but as with all the places we visited there, you had to use your imagination to visualize what it must have been like.....a huge wall around Jericho with windows, one with a scarlet cloth hanging out....pastures of sheep around the hillsides of Bethlehem....very cool to imagine.

We get up in the mornings between 5:30 and 6am, eat breakfast and are on the tour bus by 8am, we tour around until late afternoon and then they have things planned in the evenings. My friend BJ has been on one of these tours and said the Holy Land tour busses should have a slogan on the bus, “I ran today where Jesus walked!” It’s so true. So I have been falling into bed, knowing I should write some things down but too tired to care. Now that I have time, it’s all so overwhelming, I’m not sure I can remember it all in order but I’ll try to hit on the highlights in the next few entries.

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