Friday, June 12, 2009

A Beautiful Day in the Holy Land...

Well, I finally made it to the most famous place on earth... On a day trip from Tel Aviv, I managed to make it to not only Jerusalem but Bethlehem, too! We started out at the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem and the garden of Gethsemane. Twenty thousand tombstones line the hillside facing the Temple Mount– with ancient souls waiting to be among the first raised from the dead on the last day according to Scripture... This is also the place from which Jesus is said to have ascended into heaven...and there are a few different churches that mark the spot...!



(I don't want to know what that man is doing...! :-0)

We continued on to the Old City and the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall)– the closest accessible site to the holiest spot in Judaism– the Foundation Stone on the Temple Mount-- which of course is occupied by the Dome of the Rock mosque... (incidentally, did you know the term Palestine comes from the biblical Philistine? ...how history repeats!)





Fortunately, I came prepared with my hotel notepad which served as a prayer tablet for the whole group! I started to stress out, though, over the writing of the prayer– like it was my one and only chance to write the perfect letter to God and I should have started it weeks ago...! Needless to say I was the last one in the group to finish tucking my prayer into the Wailing Wall– where there was actually a woman wailing next to me... making it hard to concentrate on my own prayer! The whole thing was rather surreal, actually... and of course I forgot to back away from the wall and so had a huge overreaction as I did an about face and then overcompensated by "backtracking" way past the backwards zone! :-0



Afterwards, we walked along the Via Dolorosa where the Stations of the Cross are marked with chapels of prayer...



The Fifth Station, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross...


Modern day Via Dolorosa...

We ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre- a massive monastery encompassing the sites of both Jesus’ crucifixion and entombment. Again there is some debate among Christians as to the exact location of Jesus’ tomb, but it is universally accepted that this is indeed the site of ancient Golgotha (place of the skull) where Jesus was crucified. This was another very surreal experience as flocks of tourists buzzed about, like me, praying and picture taking, trying to strike a balance between reverence and capturing such a moment as an eternal keepsake... In retrospect, I wish I had just put my camera away...




The stone beneath the altar marks the place of Jesus' crucifixion...



The Anointing Stone- on which Joseph of Arimathea anointed Jesus' body before entombment...


...the tomb of Jesus...

Finally, we drove about 15 minutes down the road to Bethlehem. Sadly, our Israeli guide was not able to enter into the Palestinian territory with us, so were handed over to a Palestinian guide outside the secured entrance. Once inside, we stopped for a quick photo op. with the "little" town of Bethlehem in the background...



and then went straight to the Church of the Nativity...



...and made a grand entrance! (ok- I missed the story behind the door..!?)



Inside we witnessed the very place where Christ was born... appropriately marked by a beautiful star on the earth...


...and a few feet away, where he laid in the manger...



For many people, the Holy Land experience is once in a lifetime... It was a blessing, indeed, to see it once... but I’m hoping, myself, to make it back at least once more... Shalom!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

All Things Israeli...

It’s the strangest thing, this job... You are handed a schedule, and from one day to the next, a once foreign land, culture and people are suddenly a part of your world... That is how Israel popped into my life, last month!

Here are a few pictures from Tel Aviv’s famous market... I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly Israeli merchants, the amazing Dead Sea products and, of course, the freshest, most delicious produce from a land that is blessed, indeed!

Stand by for pictures from Jerusalem... coming in June! :-)










...love the camouflage yarmulke!


...I knew menorahs were Jewish, but I thought chalices were Catholic...!


...I would fail this test with flying colors... :-0


...olives and oil from the Holy Land... you can't beat that! Shalom!