Visitors in the Attic

PetsFamilyJan2013 094As my husband and I lay in the darkness of our bedroom, just as we are drifting off to sleep, I hear this scratching noise like when our white cat, Snowflake, uses her paws on a door to open it. Scritch, scratch, thump, bang seem to be coming from the bathroom or so I think. Often Snowflake will sneak into the bathroom closet by opening the folding door. She does this by placing her little paw in the opening underneath the door and pulling until it squeaks open just a crack. Her owners then give doors such as this one all over the house that compulsory push to close them again. Once Snowflake is done snoozing away in the soft blankets and towels, she must find her way out. It keeps her entertained. The thought occurs to me that I should get up and let her out but I am nicely snuggled down in my bed so I sink into my world of dreams. Around 11:30 p.m., I hear my hubby get up to go to the bathroom. I can still hear the scritch, scratching noise so when he comes back, I sleepily mumble, “Did you let the cat out of the closet?”

“She is not in the closet,” he replies. “Both cats are laying with the dog in the hall.”

OK, so what is that persistent scratching noise that I hear? And where is it coming from?

PetsFamilyJan2013 092My 6’4” hubby reaches up and bangs on the ceiling. Instant silence follows. Apparently, we have some kind of visitors making their home in our crawl space above the ceiling. Mice? Rats? Raccoons? Squirrels? And what do we do about it? There is no entrance from inside the house to the crawl space in order to set a trap. Hubby crawls back in bed and we settle back down to sleep. Only a few minutes go by and the scurrying, scratching noise begins again. Ugh… How are we supposed to sleep like this?

Over the course of the next few weeks, there are nights when we hear no noises and nights when the frantic scurrying awakens us. We discuss many times what to do. Our house roof is very steep, 30 feet in the air, and covered with snow so neither one of us wants to go on the roof to see if one of the attic vents is allowing access to our happy housemate.

“We have a live trap boxed up in the basement from when we caught that squirrel running around in our first house,” I inform Hubby after he decides he will go buy a live trap and cut a hole in the bathroom closet wall. Soon our trap is baited with peanut butter and set just outside the new hole our closet wall sports. Hopefully, the cat doesn’t find this hole or she will be gone into oblivion.

Several weeks go by. There are some nights during which the scurrying persists and many nights when there are no sounds. The trap sits empty, always at the ready to receive the offender who seems not the least bit enticed by what we are offering. We have given up hope of ever catching anything and don’t know what our next step should be.005 (3)

One morning, as I am sitting on the commode, I hear this commotion in the bathroom closet (scratching, scurrying, banging). What is that noise? Finally, it dawns on me. I pull open the closet door and peer into the depths. Two shining eyes and bared teeth glare back at me. Hello, my not-so-innocent little friend. We have just caught a squirrel. Now the question is, what do I do with him? Our son-in-law had suggested that we make squirrel soup if we ever caught the critter. But to my soft-hearted Hubby, that is just not an option. So, I load my very unhappy catch into the car and drive him 7 miles down by the river and watch him scamper off into the woods there.

The very next evening, Hubby hears the very same crashing going on in the closet. Squirrel #2 in custody. Has the first squirrel already made his way back? Or is this his mate? Now, it is hubby’s turn to drive 7 miles, this time in the dark, and to release our catch. Another decision is made. On the next Saturday, the bucket truck comes home and all the branches on the tree next to the house that must be totally tempting for squirrels to use as a bridge to the house roof come off and go into a heap. Hopefully, this is the last visit from the busy bodies. I guess we shall see as the trap remains at the ready.039_1 (2)

January Ice Storm

123“A major ice storm is moving across the Midwest,” the weather forecaster pronounces during the Sunday evening weather report.

I groan inwardly and outwardly. “Not again. I hope it stays south of us. Maybe they will be wrong this time,” I lament to my husband before we head for bed. Just in case he is not wrong, I gather a small bag of personal toiletries and clothes to take along to work in case I get stuck in town tomorrow.

The waning moon still lights the western sky as I cruise down the driveway headed for work in the morning. Hope that the weatherman is wrong springs up again. I shudder to think about if he is right. Our driveway will be a perfectly prepared skating rink with the winter snow pack and ice already currently on it.

“How is the weather outdoors,” I inquire of OR staff as they come in for later shifts.

“Not bad,” is the response, “It’s just raining some.”074

By the time I am relieved early at 6:30 p.m., I make the decision to drive home. No one seems too worried and my employer has not called a “weather emergency” so any hotel room would not be paid for. Huge steady drops of rain pound the pavement as I drive out of the parking ramp. This is not what is supposed to happen in January. I glance at my car’s outdoor thermometer. “34 degrees,” it declares – just above the freezing mark. As I creep out of town, frozen slush on the payment hails me. Any touch of the brakes rewards me with a flashing “dynamics control system activated” light on the dashboard and a sliding of tires on the pavement. This is going to be a two-hands-on-the-wheel 30 mile per hour drive.

I press “2” on my phone to call my hubby and alert him that I am coming home.

“No, you’re not,” he says, “I slid down the hill sideways on the gravel road and then got stuck in the driveway.”

“Well, I am on my way, so I will see what is like when I get there and decide what to do,” I inform him.

This will be interesting. I toss different scenarios around in my head. Should I park in the field drive and try to walk home? Should I go to the neighbors and ask for a 4-wheeler ride home? Or maybe I can slide down the hill on the gravel road and at least, park in the driveway. But I need to go to work tomorrow again so that doesn’t seem like a wise choice.

The Subaru high beams reflect off the shiny sparkling surface as I park at the top of the hill and gingerly step out of the car. Cold water cascades from the sky. I slide my shoe around on the smoothness testing its potential to send my feet in different directions. Hanging on to the car for stability, I slip back in and decide to park it right there by the side of the road under the stop sign. I pray that no one hits it and that it will still be there in the morning. I turn the ignition off and pull the key. I am thrown into pitch black darkness as I sit and try to gather up my courage to set out on foot. I don’t even have any boots.011

It looks like there is some grass sticking out of the ice along the side of the road. I will make that my path down the hill. Water soon trickles down my glasses and drips off my nose as I carefully set one foot ahead of the other as I feel for the side of the snow pack in the blackness. Breaking a leg out here alone seems like an outcome I should attempt to avoid. Once I have safely reached the beginning of the driveway, I transition to stomping through the two-foot-high snowbank along the drive as I trudge uphill, puffing away towards that warm glow of home. This is a nice ¼ mile walk in the sunshine but a daunting trek in these conditions. Just as I open the garage door, my feet attempt to escape from under me. Just what I need to do – fall down at the last moment. In the bright sweet light of home, I hang my drenched coat and set my shoes by the heat register. Time for a sleep in my warm toasty bed. At least, no plow truck is needed for this kind of precipitation.

I start out early on my walk to the car in the morning. The rain has stopped and a light coating of snow covers the ice. I walk down the middle of the drive as if the previous evening was only a dream.046

The Final Day – Traveling Home

11-17-2016 Thursday

Today is our last day in Israel. It is chilly and only partly sunny. Our first stop today is at an archaeological dig site to shift through debris from the temple mount. The temple is occupied by the Muslims and apparently, they decided to expand their mosque without contacting the antiquities authority as required. Truckloads of artifacts and debris were hauled away in the night and dumped on the Mount of Olives.

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Lecture with Directions

Sifting through buckets of stones is not really my cup of tea but we are here so participate we do. We are assigned to a sieve kind of thing in groups of four. Son-in-law, Daughter, Hubby, and I are a group. We are to dump a bucket of the debris on our wire sieve, wash it with a garden hose and then sort through it. Things that we find that are old metal, pottery, mosaic, glass, bone, or unusual stones are to be picked out and put into a muffin tin. The whole mess looks like regular old stones to me and what little interest I had is soon gone. Hubby sticks with it.

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Sifting rocks

Picking up pretty stones is more his thing. Other groups have some success with finding valuable items. Our picking is mostly a failure.

We board the buses again about 10:30 to make our way to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It is a somber experience as we remember the many lives lost through the cruelty of the Germans. The sad reality is that world leaders are now trying to tell people that it never happened. I cannot understand this phenomenon – how educated people can deny this tragedy. It is also unfathomable to me how men can be so depraved and heartless on one hand and on the other, there were those who risked their own lives and futures to save as many Jews as possible. What I am most shocked by is that Christians in the early centuries after Christ returned to heaven (200-400AD), considered the Jews subhuman and persecuted them for not accepting Christ as the Messiah. We eat our noon meal at the Holocaust Museum then relax for some time standing in the sun until everyone is ready to go.

Our last stop of the day is in the garden which contains one of the places believed to possibly be the burial site of Jesus. Our tour guide is a Swedish gentleman who talks to us about the garden and about Jesus sacrifice for us on the cross. As he is explaining about the Hill of the Scull

where Jesus was crucified, a booming loud speaker blares out the Muslim call to prayer. It is so loud we cannot talk above it and need to wait for the call to be over. Often, we are told, the Muslims call their people to prayer more than the 5 times required by their law just to interfere with the Christian activities such as this. Trying to protest or stop this kind of behavior would result in WW III so the behavior is quietly tolerated.

We make our way to the garden tomb and each one of us gets a chance to take a look into the empty tomb. Then we gather together on some benches to sing hymns and worship. Pastor Mark brings us a short message and then communion is shared together. The communion cups are made of olive wood and we can keep them as a remembrance. The wind has started to pick up and it is quite chilly as we sit there. It is 4 pm by the time we wrap up the service and head back to the bus and the hotel.

Several people, including Daughter and son-in-law, want to get off at the Jaffa Gate to do some last minute shopping so the bus makes a drop off stop there. The rest of us go back to the hotel to rest until the 6:30 drop off time for taking our suitcases to the bus. Then it is time for the last supper. A gourmet meal it is.

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Bus 2 Group Photo

We board the buses at 8:30 pm for our trip to the airport where we say Good-bye to our bus driver, Shalom, and our guide, Eli. Our excursion through the airport turns out to be a stressful challenge. We are first told to get our boarding passes at the many kiosks designed for such purposes. Brother, his wife, Hubby, and I are successful at doing so. However, by that time, we realize that all the other 100 some have been told to just get into line and we are left at the end of the line. Son-in-law and Daughter have left us in the dust. They are far ahead at the front of the line. I keep thinking having our boarding passes and luggage already checked should allow us to bypass some of this line but it does not seem so. My stomach muscles are getting tighter and tighter as this line progresses with the speed of a turtle. I keep looking at my watch and thinking that we are going to end up missing the plane. As we are all standing in line, we find out that El Al Airlines have overbooked the flight by at least 15 – 20 people and they are asking members of our group to stay. Apparently, the pilots have also been on strike since Sunday which we knew nothing about. Just last evening, all flights were canceled.

The clock has ticked away an hour and a half before we finally reach the first security point where they compare our passport with our face and ask numerous questions. This one we zip through. Then we are told to get into the line for checking our bags in.

“Can we check our bags in somewhere faster?” I ask “since we already have luggage tags.”

Of course the answer is, “No, you need to get in that line.” As the man points to the line that snakes around 3 rows of slowly crawling snails. I am starting to feel somewhat panicked as we wait again for 30 minutes. Finally, we head for the next stop which is the physical security checkpoint where we need to go through the metal detector. We are allowed to keep our shoes on which makes this line move at incredible speed. As we leave the metal detector, I look around for the signs pointing to the D concourse. I see nothing like that. Confusedly, I lead my pack of four around in circles. Finally, I decide to ask. The TSA agent I ask is visibly irritated by this ignorant idiot, “You have to go through passport verification first,” she snaps. I have no idea what that means but head towards a line marked “foreign passports.” Another official looking lady waves toward some strange machines on the wall,” You can use those automatic ones over there.”

OK, I have no idea what to do with those things but I wander over and read the directions which say, “Put passport under scanner.” Amazingly, it likes my approach and prints me a little ticket. Feeling confident that we are now on our way, I tuck everything away and we are funneled through 1 small opening towards the boarding area.  No wonder I could not see it before. We have not gone more than 20 feet and we come to more machines that indicate we need to scan our pink card to get through. “Pink card? I don’t have a pink card.” Then I realize this must mean the little slip of paper we just got. It has a faint ting of pink across the top. Finally, we reach the boarding area. Are there any more hoops to jump through I wonder? We have about a ½ hour wait before boarding the plane. They make an announcement that any liquids we have bought cannot be brought on the plane and that they will be going through our carry-on bags looking for liquids. You can’t be serious! Again? This line moves quickly as the search is not terribly thorough. The last straw awaits me on the plane. We realize Hubby and I do not have exit seats as I paid for and we are stuffed into the middle of the plane with someone between us. I make myself at home in the middle seat regardless. It makes no sense for someone to want to sit between us. When that person finally arrives, she is fine with our arrangement as it will put her husband just across the aisle from her. In all the confusion of the Airline’s overbooking and moving people around, we are left to stuff ourselves in the regular seats for 12 hours and the money I paid extra for exit seats has been swallowed up in the mess.

Other than being unable to breathe or move properly for 12 hours, all goes well with our flight. We land in Newark, NJ 45 minutes late but safe and sound back in the US. Our connecting flight to Minneapolis is uneventful. We break through the heavy clouds into light rain. By the time we retrieve our bags, it has started to snow heavily. Welcome to winter in Minnesota.

This time the hare beat the tortoise as we get home before my brother and his wife who drove home from the Newark airport.1313

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – Part 4

11-16-2016 Wednesday

 

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Sunset over the desert

Clouds darken the sky today for the first time since we have arrived here. The temperature is chilly and I surrender my belief that it is still summer by putting on a sweater. We are on the bus by 8 am and headed for Masada.

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Bedouin sheep

The drive south along the Dead Sea is beautiful in its own way. We pass areas of what they call “desert farming.” They drip irrigate using the sewage water from Jerusalem to save water.

As we go further south, the land becomes more barren with huge hills of wasteland to the west. Masada is the ruins of an ancient city built upon the top of a 1000-foot-high flat top hill. King Herod, the Great, first built one of his fortresses high on this hill. Later, it became a place for the Jews to flee for refuge around 70 AD when they were defeated by the Romans in a crushed uprising. After 3 years of refuge, the Romans are able to breach the hill and all the rebels there die. It is an awesome sight to look up at this hill high above our heads as we drive into the parking lot. If one were young and ambitious, he could hike up the Snake Trail to the top of Masada. None of us are either of these, so we board a cable car/Tram to be hoisted to the top. We are told it holds 80 people and they are serious about this as they jam pack us into the car. I am starting to feel the rising panic of claustrophobia when I find I can’t move.

It is a beautiful day here – not too hot and not too cold. We spend about an hour and a half at Masada exploring the ruins and viewing some of the great inventions of Herold the Great. Probably the most remarkable invention is the water collection and storage system.

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Israeli flag over Masada

The one or two huge rains per year are the only source of water. As we stand listening to the tour guide, I hear a clatter of something on the stone. It is Hubby’s glasses lens. He has lost the screw to hold the frame together. We brainstorm as to how to fix this but can do nothing about it at the moment.

Around 12 noon, we head back down on the cable car and board the bus for the Qumran Caves Museum. This is where we will eat lunch. It is the usual chaotic scene getting through the lunch line. We see a group of Mennonites who instantly make contact with Brother and his wife. That is how it is with Mennonites. They recognize each other anywhere and feel a bond. We exit through the gift shop to wait for our tour guide. I notice a bunch of sunglasses and we decide to buy a pair in the hopes that we can use one of the screws to repair Hubby’s glasses. Getting through the checkout line is a bit of a challenge as people are everywhere and buying the skin care products manufactured from the Dead Sea. I finally am able to get outside into the crush of people there. Our guide today, Bruce, finally is able to get us away from the masses to explain the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We make a short tour of the Essene ruins and then head back to the bus.

Our last stop is the beach of the Dead Sea.

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Dead Sea

I do not plan to float but simply to wade. The Dead Sea is 33% salt so the water is toxic if taken orally or gotten in the eyes. We receive our towels and make our way gingerly down the steep hill that once was the banks of the Dead Sea. The use of the minerals and water from the lake for commercial purposes has caused the shores of the Dead Sea to recede several hundred feet over the last 40 years. The mud is a dark gray color. I step gingerly into the water. As I move one foot ahead of the other, it drops over the edge into a hole. After several attempts, I decide to move to a different location and am able to enter the water. As I stand there watching others smear black mud all over themselves, a man holding a cell phone steps into the water in the place I formerly tried.

His leg disappears into a hole and down he goes, cell phone and all. Now why would someone take their cell phone along into a salt bath? Is my question. After wading about for approximately 15 minutes and getting splashed by others falling down, I decide it is time to get out before I end up totally wet. After washing off my feet, Hubby and I find some ice cream to enjoy at a small picnic table under a spreading tree. Hundreds of chirping birds seem to be perched in its branches. I am just about done when I feel a wet drop on my forehead from above. Gross! A bird has just pooped on my head. It is time to move on back to the bus.1226

We are back at the hotel by 5:45pm and catch up with Daughter and Son-in-law who did not accompany us today but decided to wander around by themselves and relax. I spy the pipe cleaner on our suitcase and use it for the repair so badly needed on Hubby’s glasses after we can’t get the screw out of the new sunglasses we bought. It works. Only one more day before it is time to head home again.

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus Part 3

11-14-2016 Monday

 

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Overlooking Jerusalem from Mt Scopus

Today hands us another beautiful sunny morning to greet us. We are on the bus and heading for Mount Scopus by 8 am. Here we spend a few minutes having photos taken of our bus and of the whole group. Winding through the narrow, hilly streets of Jerusalem is quite the experience. Buses sometimes miss each other by inches. This morning, because we are going to Bethlehem into Palestinian territory, we have been asked to bring our passports and we need to exchange our Jewish guide for a Palestinian one. Israeli citizens are not allowed to cross into Palestine. A change in plans is made because of the number of people and the times of mass at the Church of the Nativity and we are taken first to a shop in Bethlehem where Arab Christians make beautiful decorations using olive wood. I wander around the shop and am somewhat disillusioned by the prices. There are some beautiful praying hands with the last supper carved on the palms. It is almost $3000. Well skip that. We finally settle for a small camel, a shepherd, and a sheep for $85.

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Machine making multiple olive wood figurines at once

A short trip to the basement workshop finishes out the visit to this shop. We are informed that our bus has a water leak and we will need to divide out onto the other two buses to make the trip to the Church of the Nativity. We feel like foreigners on this other bus. We need to walk awhile after exiting the bus. The walking trip feels chaotic with all the people on the street. “Use your horn liberally” seems to be the expectation of the day especially when the American tourists are in the way. Masses of people resulting in long lines are at the church. The church is under re-construction so leaves something to be desired for picture taking. We do not have too long of a wait to get into the cave with the Star of Bethlehem and the areas where baby Jesus was laid. I am saddened by the shrines built to commemorate everything. I just want to see the simple cave in which Christ was born.

We attempt to get back on the same temporary bus after we leave the church but we must be confused as Hubby can’t find his camera bag and the lady in the seat that we think is ours, thinks we are deranged. We finally get on the right bus and are headed for Shepherd’s Field which is a preserved site showing what the cave might have looked like that the shepherds lived in and the field where the angels proclaimed that good news of Jesus birth to the shepherds.

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Inside shepherds cave

We all gather in the cave for a reading from the Bible about the angels coming to the shepherds and we sing Joy to the World together. By now, I am getting extremely hungry and irritated due to a lack of bathroom stops. I am going to the bathroom whether we have time or not. Our bus is repaired by the time we are done at Shepherd’s field and it is back to the correct #2 bus. This feels right and comfortable.

Lunch is at a kibbutz that now caters to guests because the city has surrounded them and taken their fields. It is the same mass confusion getting through the lunch line but we finally do it. We keep losing either Brother and his wife or Daughter and Son-in-law in our lunch lines’ confusion. Our next stop is the upper room where Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples. It is not the actual room which has been destroyed and rebuilt but the actual place. This room is also believed to possibly be the place where the disciples waited and received the Holy spirit at Pentecost.

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View from Caiaphas house toward Jerusalem

Hiking through the upper room, then up the steps to Caiaphas’ house gives one the general idea of the distance and site of these important events in the Bible. Our last stop is to see the dungeon or prison cell where Jesus might have been imprisoned and tortured the night before his crucifixion. This is something I have never thought about before. We sing an old hymn here.  As we walk up the hill to the buses, it has grown dark and a huge moon is just rising over the horizon. It is supposed to be a super moon, the biggest one since Israel became a nation in 1948.

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Moonrise over Jerusalem

11-15-2016  Tuesday

The day is a little cooler today. Breakfast is the usual time of 6 am and we are on the bus by 7:45 am. We are headed today to explore the old city of Jerusalem. Our first stop of the day is to view a 15 minute 3-D film of the history of Jerusalem. We emerge into the bright sunlight and sit on a bench while Eli, our guide, talks to us. Eli is an entertaining and informative guy for a guide. He in mild -mannered and always has a joke to share or is laughing at himself for his own foibles.

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Eli’s cap “I am their leader – which way did they go”

Maneuvering steps going down to an archaeological dig of David’s Palace is the next order of business. We then make our way through the City of David and enter the old aqueduct system of many years ago that has been re-excavated. It is 2 foot wide by approximately 5’ 10” high. It is bordered on both sides by stone walls. We file through the tunnel single file. I am somewhat claustrophobic and have to keep telling myself I am fine. At one place the tunnel is so narrow, Hubby has to go through sideways.

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Narrow passage

We squirm our way through what seems like hours of walking until we come out under the newer excavated western wall and emerge again into the light. After some more education, we circle up around above the Western Wailing wall and come in through the metal detectors. The Western Wall is all that remains of the temple and visiting it brings the visitor as close as possible to the Holy of Holies. Men and women go through the metal detectors separately and then are expected to visit the wailing wall separately. I point out to my brother that the Western wall section for men is longer than for the women even though the women’s side is packed. Brother points out that the men have podiums to stand at and the women have chairs to sit on.

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Western Wall – Men’s side

In other words, “the men are to preach and the women are to be quiet.” We both laugh. This is reference to the beliefs of our upbringing.  I do not wish to leave a prayer on the wall as I believe God hears me equally from wherever I pray. However, we do make our way to the wall and touch it. I feel no zing, no electric shock, no special revelation from heaven.

We leave the western wall and walk through the Jewish quarter and into the Armenian quarter for lunch at an Armenian restaurant. We have a relaxed hour and then it is back out to walk through the various quarters of the old city. We stop at the pools of Bethesda. Our last order of the day is to walk the stations of the cross or the Via Dolorosa. I think the most touching part of the afternoon is acapella singing in the chapel of the only church left from the era of the crusades.

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Singing

A lady who grew up Mennonite leads us in the traditional way of singing Amazing Grace and It is well with my soul. Wow, how I miss that singing and those old hymns.

We continue our trek along the “Way of Sorrow” through the narrow over-crowded streets. The weather has turned and a cool chill breeze has sprung up. It is growing dark by the time we leave. The bus in not waiting as we are told it will be and we spend at least ½ hour wondering if we are going to be picked up. One last stop of the day is at a shop for us to shop. I see nothing new and/or that I can afford. They have swapped buses again because ours is needed for a trip to the airport. We get on the wrong bus before we decide that this doesn’t make sense and get back off.  (to be continued)

 

 

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – Part 2

11-12-2016 Saturday

 

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The Shepherd

An early breakfast is served and we are on the bus by 7:30am. Our first stop is the village of Nazareth. It is a restored area designed like the original village of Nazareth. I really enjoy this stop. There are characters acting as the shepherd with the sheep and our guide explains passages of scripture such as “separating the sheep from the goats” that Jesus talked about and “going through the narrow gate”. This refers to the smaller door into the house so the animals couldn’t enter. We visit the carpenter shop where Son-in-law, as the youngest man, is chosen to try the rope run hand drill.

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The olive press

From the village of Nazareth, we move on to the Church of the Wedding of Cana. Due to double booking of the church, we wait almost an hour to get in. Once we get in, we sing “How Great Though Art” and then have a short devotional by one of the pastors, Pastor Mark. There is no dearth of pastors in our group.  I have counted 4 in this group of 120 people. Pastor Mark then leads those of us who want to through a reciting of our marriage vows.

We leave the church about noon and drive to the south side of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan River leaves the sea. We drove from Cana across farmland spread in both directions. One could look to the left and see farms and then towns on the hill and to the right, farmland spread out away down into the valley. Just above the south side of the Sea of Galilee, we stopped and got off the bus. We could see across the valley to the Golan Heights, to Jordan, and where the border of Syria traversed those areas in the middle.

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Looking down at the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan exits

We re-boarded the bus to travel down to the restaurant at the Jordan River. We order our lunch in a large open room. Today, I chose the chicken and rice.

After lunch, those who want to be baptized, got their baptismal gowns and towels, and made their way to the area reserved for our group. There are steps going down into the water for those being baptized. There are concrete steps for us who are not being baptized to sit upon and watch.

There must be at least 100 people who line up to be baptized. All 4 pastors help with the baptisms (Chris Page, Steve Chupp, Mark Lantz, Paul Begley). Son-in-law chose to be baptized though none of the rest of us did. It was a warm, sunny, beautiful summer day for November. It was 4pm before all the baptisms were done and we wandered around for a short time before getting back on the bus and heading for the hotel. Hubby and I bought ice cream cones as we are getting goodie deprived.

There are 5 buses unloading when we get back to the hotel. I take one look at that and decide to walk up the 11 flights of stairs to our room. Hubby is puffing behind me and convinced I am trying to kill him but it was so much faster than waiting hours for an elevator. Supper is at 6 pm and then we can relax in our room. People just love to blow the shofar on the street below. I think it is potential customers trying out the instrument before buying it.

We were told to have our suitcases out between 9:30 – 10 pm. Hubby and I put ours out early (maybe 9pm) so we can go to sleep. I guess Son-in-law and Daughter put theirs out earlier (around 8pm) because they want to go to sleep too. It isn’t long before there is banging on their hotel room door. Son-in-law is already asleep and ignored the banging and Daughter was in the bathroom. She finally was able to answer the door.

“These your bags?” demands security.

“Yes.”

“You can’t leave them here.”

We had just been educated by Eli, our guide, today about the importance of not leaving any baggage lying around unattended and that such things were cause for the police to be called and the bomb squad to blow them up. So much for trying to put bags out before the allotted time so that one can go to sleep early.

Today is Sunday. We eat breakfast at 7am and are on the bus by 8am. Our first destination is a stop to help plant trees on public land.

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Planting trees

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Planting trees

Each one of us receives a tree and then we walk across a dry, thistle infested, rocky field to place our tree in a pre-dug hole. The soil is red in color, dry, and hard. It looks like all living plants need irrigation in this land. Everywhere one looks, there are hoses strung with small holes in them to water each plant. From there we board the bus and drive along the Jordan River valley to the excavated ruins of the Roman city of Beit She’an.

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Beit She’an

We explore the ruins of a Roman bath house, the amphitheater, and the remains of a Roman brothel. The temperature is warm, probably in the 80s and I am soon hot and sticky. By noon, it is time to get back on the bus and head to our dinner spot. It is at a hostel in the modern city of Beit She’an. There are not nearly as many people as other days making for a more relaxed time. The meal is served café style.

After we get back on the bus, we head south through the West Bank. The land is mostly barren and hilly. Where there are crops and trees, the farmers are irrigating with the small hoses that run everywhere. The closer we get to Jerusalem; we start to see herds of goats on the hillside with run down homesteads. These are the Bedouin people that no longer are nomads.

It is going towards 3:30 pm when we roll into Jerusalem. We are taken to the top of the hill above the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Garden of Gethsemane

The road is narrow, steep, and winding that we walk down to the garden. We spend a few minutes in the church of All Nations before re-boarding the bus for our trip to the hotel. The sun has pretty much set and the lights are coming on around the old city of Jerusalem. It is beautiful and old and distinguished. Our arrival at the hotel goes rather smoothly compared to the last hotel. We have our luggage within 5 minutes and then are off to the elevator that is fast, efficient, and sports no waiting lines. Supper is way more than I should eat and our group is the only one competing for spots tonight. This is the Dan Panorama Jerusalem hotel and it is a step up from our last hotel.

 

 

Walking Where Jesus Walked

11-10-2016 Thursday First Day in Israel – Sleep Walking

 

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View from Tiberius hotel room

We had a fairly smooth 10-hour flight. I think I phased out for maybe an hour but never really slept. Hubby and I had good seats in the exit row with lots of room but it also tended to be the area people wanted to congregate to talk. There were also 3 babies close by that spent a good amount of time crying. We arrived in Tel Aviv around 6:30am. I went to get Hubby’s camera bag out of the overhead bin. As I was doing so, a coat flopped out too. As I tried to catch the coat, the camera bag got away from me and flipped back over my head, landing right on the 7-8-month old baby. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt but I was horrified and his mother, I’m sure, thought what a careless person.

011Getting through customs actually went well but then, there was trouble with the belt bringing out the luggage bags. An airport worker finally came crawling up through the luggage chute and started throwing bags around. We soon had our luggage and gathered in a group. There are about 120 people. We are assigned to Bus 2. Even though we are dog tired, we set off on our tour route for the day. We start by visiting Caesarea

by the Mediterranean Sea. The huge coliseum is our first stop. We trail along looking at the different areas of the destroyed city. The sun beats down on us. It must be over 80 degrees and I feel like I am going to fall over. I am not dressed for summer and my sweater soon comes off. After a couple hours of walking, we get back on the bus for a trip to

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View from Mt. Carmel

Mount Carmel where Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume his offering. This was to show the prophets of Baal who the real God is. We climbed to the top of the roof of the Catholic church built on the spot and look out over the Valley of Jezreel where the battle of Armageddon is to take place. It is an awesome view. It is 1:30 pm and we are getting very tired and hungry, grouchy, and have little stamina left. We board the buses one more time for our trip to the destroyed city of Magiddo (or Armagadon) where we are told we will eat lunch at a restaurant there. I sigh when I see the long line at the restaurant. Serving is cafeteria style and the line creeps along slowly. It seems like mass confusion in the restaurant. I buy juice which costs $3 a glass.  We finally get food. Everyone is at their wits end. Daughter ends up in tears. Soon, though, we feel refreshed after we have eaten and head up the trail to the gate of the city with many ruins under it. The walk down 182 steps to the water source of the ancient city is like going into a cave. We climb back up some 80 steps and board the buses for the hotel @ 4pm. We have a chance to rest ½ hour before heading downstairs for supper. After supper comes a refreshing shower and a collapse into bed as I can no longer keep my eyes open. The biggest problem in getting to sleep is that I feel like I am moving and moving and moving. Outside, there is a shofar being blown over and over and a huge amount of noise from a party. That’s when the ear plugs I have brought along come in handy.

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Fireworks on Sea of Galilee

11-11-2016 Friday

Wake up call was at 6:30am with breakfast at 7. It is always chaotic in the restaurant with the hotel trying to feed masses of people in a short time. I had some fruit and yogurt that did not taste at all like I am used to. Daughter says she is hot and does not feel well. I dig out my small supply of Tylenol. Once a nurse, always a nurse. I am a walking drug store.

It is a beautiful, warm quiet morning. We walk to the boat dock and board a wooden boat built like the fisherman of Jesus day would have fished in. Hubby and I got the very front where the breeze touched our faces and cooled off our hot bodies. We have about an hour for our sail around the Sea of Galilee. They stop for a brief time of devotions and then some praise songs are sung over the loud system which is uplifting and beautiful. The boat is docked at the museum that contains the 2000-year-old actual remains of a boat from Jesus time at Nof Ginosar.

From there, we travel on to Capernaum where Jesus spent 3 years of his ministry. There is a Catholic church built over where Peter’s house was found. We explore the remains of a synagogue and basically the village of Capernaum.  We then drive around to the kibbutz at Ein Gev and eat our lunch at the restaurant known for “Peter’s Fish.” Hubby and I both have the whole fish, cooked without scaling and with even the eyes remaining. It doesn’t taste too bad if one can get past the eyes staring back at you.

The day remains warm and beautiful. We climb back onto the bus and head for the Mount of the Beatitudes. It is a beautiful spot with flowers and trees and another Catholic church built on the grounds. We have 15-20 minutes to walk around and enjoy the scenery. We make one last stop on the shores of Galilee where many people wade in the water. Another church, The Primacy of Peter, is located here. It has beautiful stain glass windows.

By 4:30 pm, we are headed back to the hotel for supper and rest. Supper is probably the most chaotic meal I have seen yet. The waiting line wraps around the cafeteria. Hubby & I get some basic food and then decide to give up trying to get more food.