Hey guys! It’s been extremely busy the last several days, and due to internet problems, we are now embarking on day 6 of the official tour and I hope to post this. I’ve already actually written this, but it was completely erased, so I will begin again – oi vey.
One of our tour guide said to experience the Land for ourselves, and not through the eyes of a camera. As stated, pictures are not my strength, I have some, but not nearly as much as the mental pictures in my head. I have a link to pictures from the tour leaders (Joinedtohashem.org), and I would have pictures and videos below, but the internet connection will not allow me to upload, so I shall now try to develop the pictures in my head. Visual pictures will follow when I get home.
Judea and Samaria
We began in Itamar, which means heart, and was in the heart of the land of Joseph, in what the rest of the world calls the West bank. The tour guides call is Judah and Samaria. The people who have settled there in towns and villages (not settlements, as people are insistent on calling it) call it Judah and Samaria, and after hearing the stories and walking the land, to me, it is Judea and Samaria. As we looked around at a place that media tells us is overcrowded, seeing the countryside and wide open spaces, we gleaned, just a little, of what the people are walking through. Many of the Jews come home with a practical vision to plow, till, and invest in the land. They come in tents, living for months or years with no electricity and no running water because they know it’s home. This tour has taken us to places that most tourist groups never get to. On Itamar, you can see three seas on a clear day (it wasn’t quite clear when we were there); The see of Galilee, The Dead Sea, and the Mediterranean. This is where the valley of Abraham is, and you look in one direction, you can see Mount Ebal, the mountain of curses, and in the other direction, Mount Gerazim, the mountain of blessings. This area specializes in organic farms, and we went to one where the did goat farming, and a stubborn goat followed us around. I ended up trying to lead the goat away from some of the flowers – a new profession? We’ll see. You can see that picture on the Joined to Hashem site link I posted at the top. They told us it was the last press of the olive, last of the harvest season before the rainy season. It happened to rain, and everywhere we went, they told us what a blessing it was that we were here for the first day of the rains, because even in the rainy season, it doesn’t rain much. We even caught a full rainbow! As we descended from Itamar, we saw the fences around the lower part – they were there to try to keep the terrorist out. We visited the house of the Fogel’s, a family who was massacred by a terrorist. They stabbed an elementary aged girl, the mother, the father, came back, and stabbed the 3 month old baby. Only one daughter and two sons were spared. The community’s response? Keep building what the muslims want to break down. What a resilient people. As we came down from there towards Har Braka through Shechem, our guide read the promise to Abraham, and it was very… special to be in the same place he was, and here the same words he did. We went to a wine tasting in Har Braka, and heard their story; how they came with nothing, not even the ability to farm, but just knowing they had to come. Here and many other places we heard the same thing, the produce of the land, the fruits and vegetables, we are not just eating fruits, we are eating prophecy. Very powerful stuff. We went next to Ha Yovel, the largest recognized Christian Community in Israel. Their mission is to come along side to help and strengthen the farmers of the land. It is an incredible ministry, and people who want to do a service project in Israel should definitely check it out.I will post a video of one of the leaders singing the only song he ever wrote about committing to the land. It’s beautiful. And then there was evening and then there was day, the first day 😉
Before we left Judea and Samaria, we visited another winery, tasting their fruits (or rather, the prophecy) and hearing their stories. The buildings were rather oddly designed. When the owners first came they lived in tents, waiting for permits to be granted to build permanent structures. Well, while they were waiting, they built buildings underneath their tents. When the permits were granted, they were already well on their was to being established. Very, very clever, I say. We headed from there to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was for 369 years before the Philistines took it. David Rubin, former mayor to the new city, talked about the verse in scripture “until Shiloh comes”, Shiloh meaning Messiah. Something to think about. He showed us around the Shiloh Israel Center for therapeutic and recreation center, a place created for victims of terrorism. There are three such places, and there are over 3,000 boys and girls who come. 3,000 little ones who have lost a parent, a family member, a neighbor, or have been themselves been affected by terror attacks.They have a petting zoo, as well as a horse farm to help with the therapy. We came there on Rosh Chodesh, the new moon, so the men of our group joined in with the boys on their side in the dancing celebration, and later as we walked through the girls’ side we took pictures and chattered with them. It was pretty cool. After that, we went up (again) to the Tel, or tabernacle ruins. There were excavation sites everywhere, as this is ancient Shiloh being unearthed, both the town and the tabernacle. An awesome thing to see and understand was that the Israelites came up to the tabenacle at least three times a year for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread, for Savu’ot, or Pentecost, and for Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. They came up and ate their offerings before the Lord in clay pots and vessels, but once they ate, they became holy, and couldn’t be used for common use, so the finished and shattered their vessels, not to be used again. The hillside is covered in pottery shards, and as we picked up these shards, it’s something to contemplate handling the vessels that they used to worship Elohim thousands of years ago. We had time to sit and reflect, and as I sat on what I later figured out to be approximately where the Holy of holies may have been, I was filled with a sense of peace that surpasses all understanding, and a feeling that settled in my heart that I was home. For one moment in time, I was really home. It was quite overwhelming. After lunch, we went to the home of Nati, a leader of several “settlements” who built them from nothing, over and over again. After he left the IDF, he and four of their friends wanted to do something more, so they started this project, Lev HaOlam, which takes products from the people of the area, puts them in a box and is sent to people who want to support Israeli products in response to the boycott. They have wine, jewelry, chocolate (It’s called Holy Cacao), skin care products, along with stories of the families who produce them. You really need to check out the site and sign up for the box. It’s so worth it! On the way to Jerusalem, we passed Beit El, where Jacob had his dream, also where Jeroboam built one of the false alters to lead the northern tribes of Israel away from true worship. And then there was evening and then there was morning, day two!
The Old City
So, our first stop in Jerusalem was the temple Mount. It was an ordeal. For all that they say that anyone can come up, we had a lot of warning. We had to be covered from neck to ankles, we couldn’t carry any religious items up whatsoever (bibles, christian shirts, etc), and we weren’t allowed to give any indication that we were praying or worshipping, not even moving our lips in silent prayer. It was totally arbitrary what they would allow from one day to the next. Three married couples where strongly admonished not to hold hands or touch, and one couple had to delete a photo of them with their arms around each other. This is the freedom they promise up there. We went down to the city in the Jewish quarter, and was introduced to the owner of a paint gallery, who was also a painter in his own right. What wonderful stories he had to tell. He spoke of being the first Jewish boy back in the old city, and running around the Kotel tunnels as his playground. One of the pictures that struck me is a picture of four Israeli soldiers at the Western Wall praying; you may have seen around. Udi, the owner, painted it as a sign of brotherhood and a freedom to worship. What a difference from the first part of our day. We walked around and had lunch, and then went to Shosherim, a shop in which everything testified of God. Every picture, every piece of Jewelry, every piece of clothing, to show God’s glory, and how we can spread His glory from there to wherever we go. Such amazing men who own the shop, and you could feel the love he had for anyone who would receive it. We came back to the hotel, had dinner, and had wonderful fellowship with the group. And evening came, and then there was morning, day three! More to come tomorrow!