Serving in the Baptist Village- Days 2-6

Monday afternoon, July 15, 2013-Friday, July 19, 2013

Before making our final stop at the Baptist Village, we grabbed some lunch at an Israeli shopping center.  Having already eaten and learned what to expect out of an Israeli shawarma and falafel dish, some of us (and yes, thank goodness there were other picky eaters on the trip to back me up!), decided to find something a little less…Israeli.  We found a little pub-style restaurant that served a variety of options.  Everything was still Kosher (no meat on your cheese pizzas or cheese on your burgers), but we could handle that!  Figuring out the ticket was the trickiest part!  215 shekels 😉 July15 (136) July15 (148) July15 (137)July15 (151)July15 (141) July15 (142)

Our next stop for the bulk of the week was the Baptist Village in Petah Tikva, Israel.  It’s hard to describe the Baptist Village.  They can’t shout from the rooftops that they are a Christian organization like any church affiliated organization could here in the USA.  They actually aren’t really even affiliated with a church group.  I’m pretty sure the word “baptist” doesn’t really have the same connotation in Israel as it does here.  It’s really seen more as a community group. The group originally started in the 1940s as an orphanage in Tiberias.  It later moved Nazareth and then finally to Petah Tikva in 1955, and over time evolved into a boarding school instead of an orphanage, but by the late 1970s, the organization could no longer support operating as a school.  It now serves as a center for community affairs, conferences, sporting events and camps.  The old dormitory buildings are still used year-round for kids camps and overnight conferences.July17 (22) July17 (15) July18 (3) July17 (60) July17 (46) July17 (50) July17 (42) July17 (49) July17 (24)The week we were in town was a busy week for the Baptist Village.  Not only were kids camps going on, but the BV was a hosting site for the baseball games in the Jewish Olympics, aka the Maccabiah games.  Every subsequent year following the worldwide Olympics, the Jewish community hosts their own mini Olympics in Israel.  And although we only got a glimpse of these games since only the baseball games were held at the BV, these Jewish Olympics are kinda a big deal!  There were posters and banners all over the airport, and as far as baseball goes, there was an American, Canadian, and Israeli team competing.  It lasts 2 weeks, just like the big Olympics, and there was a closing ceremony in Jerusalem.  So anyways, part of our focus was helping the BV team run the kids camp by helping cook and prepare all the meals throughout the week, and the other focus was helping prep the baseball field and stands for the Maccabiah games.  For the most part, the boys working in the field and the girls worked in the kitchen.  Israeli families eat lots of fruits and veggies, and lots and LOTS of hummus.  At pretty much every meal we had to cut up cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, pickles, tomatoes, and we served pita and hummus.  Again, everything we served was Kosher.  So no diary and meat together.  Only milk served at breakfast (no meat at breakfast), no chocolate spread for pita with dinner, only meatless lasagna, etc.  It’s a learning experience, but you catch on quickly.July17 (1) July17 (9) July17 (10) July17 (11) July17 (12)July17 (12b) July17 (12c) July17 (20) July17 (26)July17 (61) July17 (29)July18 (5) July17 (37)July17 (41b) July17 (39) July17 (52) July17 (53) July17 (54) July17 (59) July17 (66) July17 (68)

We met some amazing people while working at the camp.  Two in particular were Tammi and Carma.  These amazing women have known each other for YEARS! They lived in Texas together, became friends, got married and their families became instant friends.  Then, Carma and her husband and family moved to Israel to serve I believe almost 15(?) years ago, and a few years later Tammi and her family moved.  And they’ve been living and serving together in Israel ever since.  Some of their kids have grown up almost entirely in Israel.  They are fluent in Hebrew, which is amazing to me.  Almost all the kids at the camp speak Hebrew as their primary language, but thankfully a lot of them know English just as well.  The kids come to the camp to learn about Jesus and fellowship with other Christians who come from all over Israel.  Christianity represents only about 2% of the religious groups in Israel.  So many of these kids don’t know a lot (or any) other Christians in their communities.  So for them, this camp is a great opportunity to learn and be encouraged that they are not alone in their faith.July17 (64)July19 (43) July17 (27)

So starting with dinner Monday night through lunch on Friday, we prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for approximately 75 students, plus counselors, staff and of course, us!  Those were some long days!  By the time you prep, serve and clean-up from one meal it was about time to begin again for the next.  And the boys worked SO HARD out on the baseball fields.  They had to trim and cut the grass, hang tarps for shade, move fencing and barricades, paint lines on the field…and it’s hot in Israel!  We all put in a long day’s work each day.  But it was so rewarding.  And like I said, the people we worked with are truly a blessing.  We absolutely fell in love with Tammi and Carma!

Up next….the Maccabiah games started Thursday!

the Ancient City of Caesarea- Day 2

Holy cow, where has August gone!?!  I thought life was gonna slow down when we got back from all our travels.  Boy, was I wrong.  August has been filled with lots of overtime at work (the day we got back into town from our trip to the Bahamas, I started what turned into a 60-hour work week!), lots of visits to student health to get shots and paperwork for grad school, registering for grad school, re-organizing our life to adjust from being out of the country for half of July, and then coping with the death of a dear college friend.  It’s been a rough few weeks, I can assure you.  It didn’t help that mine and Greg’s schedule could not have been more opposite over the past several weeks.  Not only was I working my butt off (on night shift still, which meant we weren’t even sleeping in bed together half the time), Greg had to go out of town twice in the 2 weeks after we got back from vacation.  So the days I WAS home and off from work, happened to be the days he was out of town for work.  I’m pretty sure for 2 straight weeks, I didn’t see him for more than 30 mins at a time.  Let me tell you…it sucked BIG TIME!!!  I literally had a meltdown eventually.  Luckily, we’ve had a night or 2 since then that we’ve gotten to hang out, and we even squeezed in a date night one of those nights.  But he’s still been out of town 2 more times, and then I’ll be out of town next weekend for my friend’s funeral.  I CANNOT EXPRESS HOW READY I AM FOR OUR LIVES TO SLOW DOWN AND TAKE A BREAK!  Sigh.

So.  That’s how things are going over here 😉  Man, I have SO many things to catch up on in this world of blogging!  First things first though, I’ve got to get my Israel posts done!  So let’s do this….  on to Caesarea!

Monday, July 15, 2013

When we last left off, we had just been to the Aqueducts along the Mediterranean Sea coast. We left there and went to Caesarea.  Now, let me try to give you a SUPER brief history and highlights of the ancient city of Caesarea.

Around 25-10 BC: Herod the Great built the city and harbor and called it Caesarea, in honor of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.  For hundreds of years it thrived as an administrative capital, trade city and prominent sea-port for ancient Judea.

Pontius Pilate ruled Judea from Caesarea from about 25-35 AD.  Of course we know Pilate as the ruler during the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, which means Jesus would have come to Caesarea for his trail before Pilate.

We learn in the book of Acts that the apostle Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea at one time.

Over the centuries of it’s existence, Caesarea has fallen captive to many different empires who conquered and rebuilt portions of the city over time.  Not only that, but many earthquakes and hurricanes have changed the landscape of the great city over the course of time.  To give you an idea of the changes, here is a look at what the ancient city of Caesarea looked like in it’s early years.Caesarea2caesarea4

And then here are some arial shots of the city today…caesarea3caesarea5

Quite a difference, huh?  Now let’s take a look at what we saw!  First, we entered the city and began by touring the theatre.  The only remains that are original is the first layer of stadium seats.  The rest has been reconstructed from rubble and excavated stones to recreate what the original theatre probably looked like.

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As we exited the theatre area, we walked towards the coast into the area that would have been the palace.  There was a courtyard area here, along with remains of beautiful tile mosaics that I’m guessing were palace floors thousands of years ago.  Although now, much of the structures are gone, and only some of the flooring remains, and even that is partially underwater.July15 (88) July15 (89) July15 (95)July15 (90) July15 (92) July15 (93) July15 (94)July15 (99) July15 (100) July15 (103)July15 (97) July15 (101)

This stone was discovered in Caesarea and has this inscription carved into it: (Po)ntius Pilatus, the prefect of Judea, (erected) a (building dedicated) to (the emperor) Tiberius.”  It is written in Latin, which indicates strong Romanization during this period.  For those of us who believe in the truth of the Bible, it further gives historical proof to the validity of the Word of God.

During Roman reign, the city was also a great entertainment district.  Gladiator games, chariot races, and large sporting and theatrical events took place in the thriving city.  Below is the area of the city called the “hippodrome” where many of these sporting events would have taken place.  Can’t you just picture horse and chariots whipping around that dirt track in front of hundreds of spectators?  Hercules, anyone?July15 (108) July15 (119) July15 (104) July15 (106)July15 (130) July15 (127)July15 (134) July15 (135)

Well that wraps up our first 2 days of touring!  Can you believe we did ALL THAT in 2 days?  After Caesarea, we loaded the bus and headed to Petah Tikva to the Baptist Village where we would be spending the next 4 days of the trip working at the kids camp and helping prepare for the Jewish Olympics!

Megiddo and the Mediterranean Sea- Day 2

Monday, July 15, 2013

Day two of touring began by driving southwest of Galilee to Megiddo.  Megiddo is one of the most excavated areas in all of Israel.  It is a site where 24 layers of ruins have been discovered.  Because of its prime location, there were many battles between nations here, and those that conquered the land rebuilt their cities on top of one another.  It sits just above the Jezreel valley and in the path of the trade routes between Israel and Egypt.  It was inhabited for hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ time, and has been uninhabited since about 400BC.  Here are some pics I snagged from the internet to give you an idea of location of Megiddo.Megiddo mapmegiddo

See how it sits on top of this mountain ridge?  Ideal location for ancient times when you needed to protect your city.  A city on a hill.  Since there are soooo many layers of civilizations at Megiddo it’s hard to date it.  Instead scholars have dated certain areas of it.  One opinion is that the main City Gate dates back to the 10th century BC to the reign of Solomon.July15 (3) July15 (4) July15 (5) July15 (6)July15 (9)July15 (11) July15 (12) July15 (14) July15 (17) July15 (18) July15 (14b)This particular area below was a sacred area.  It served as an area of worship for over 2,000 years, and several temples were found built one on top of another.  The round stone area pictured below is an ancient alter.  Thousands of sacrificial animal bones were discovered around this area as well.July15 (23) July15 (28)

Below is a portion of a city that has been dated to King Solomon’s reign (10 BC).July15 (30)

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A large water cistern.  It only rains a few months out of the year in Israel, so most ancient cities had water cisterns to store water.  Megiddo was also valued because it had a natural water source from a natural spring at the base of the mound.  As long as your city had access to water it could be successful.  If the enemy is able to cut off your water supply, the city will surely fail.July15 (36)A nearly 300 foot tunnel was dug beneath the mound to access the spring.  Since the spring itself was actually located outside of city walls, the outside access was concealed to prevent enemies from knowing about it’s existence.  We walked down into the water system and through the tunnel to the spring which is still somewhat active.  Then we exited the city via stairs leading up out of the water system.July15 (42) July15 (43) July15 (47)July15 (48) July15 (50)July15 (53)Next we hopped back on the bus and traveled west to the coast of Israel toward Ceasarea.  We stopped along the way at the aqueducts.  These were man-made water systems built to run water (usually from natural springs) to the cities of Israel.  The land of Israel is dry.  Much of the southern half of it is uninhabited dessert.  This particular aqueduct was built by Herod in the 1st century BC to supply water to the city of Ceasarea.  (I don’t fully understand how this particular aqueduct worked in ancient times, but I think some sort of pipe system ran along top of the archways towards the city).  Here we also go to see the beautiful coast of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.  It was gorgeous! July15 (64) July15 (67) July15 (62) July15 (70)July15 (68b) July15 (68cd

Beyond Galilee-Day 1

Sunday, July 14, 2013

After our boat ride, we drove inland off the Sea of Galilee into a valley.  A passageway called the “via Maris,” which means “the way of the sea”, was part of an ancient trade route through the valley and dates back to the 1st century.  In the surrounding mountains and cliffs, there are tons of caves where zealots lived.  Zealots were political rebels; nomads who traveled the land.  This valley would have likely been the route Jesus would have taken when traveling from to and from Galilee.  It definitely wasn’t like any other terrain we saw.  There were cattle and goats along the valley as well.  Andre told us their shepherd was probably nearby.  Oh, here’s a cool fact.  You know when you see drawings of shepherds from Bible times or figurines in a manger scene, and the shepherd has a sheep draped across his shoulders.  Well, you also know the parable of the lost sheep?  That the shepherd will leave his flock in search of one lost sheep.  When a young lamb wanders from the flock, the shepherd has to go look for him (because the shepherd knows the safe routes to travel and he leads his sheep that way).  If the lamb continues to wander, then the shepherd will break the lambs’ legs and carry it for a few weeks until the lamb heals.  At that point, that lamb will follow that shepherd for life.  The parable of the lost sheep makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?  It’s amazing the little things you learn about Israel and the lifestyles during the early centuries and how much more the Bible makes sense 🙂July14 (163) July14 (166) July14 (168) July14 (170) July14 (175) July14 (177) July14 (181) July14 (184) July14 (185) July14 (186) July14 (188) July14 (190) July14 (192)

Looking back towards the Sea of Galilee in the distance.July14 (193) July14 (195) July14 (196) July14 (199) July14 (200) July14 (201) July14 (203) July14 (206)

We wrapped up day one with a trip to the southern part of Galilee to the Jordan River.  The Jordan River feeds into the Sea of Galilee from the north and continues south into the Dead Sea.  John the Baptist lead much of his ministry along the Jordan river, baptizing the people of Israel in its waters.  Jesus himself was baptized in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-16).  And today, there are baptisms every day in the river.July14 (215) July14 (216) July14 (218) July14 (225)July14 (226b)July14 (228) July14 (232)July14 (231)

After the Jordan River, we headed back north towards Tiberius (where our hotel was).  We stopped at a street market for just a bit along the Sea of Galilee and then had dinner back at the hotel.  It was a busy first day in Israel!July14 (233) July14 (235)July14 (237) July14 (238)

Oh quick funny story.  Our first day waking up in Israel we didn’t set an alarm (our phones weren’t set to Israel time and our tour guide kept talking about us “having a 6:30 wake-up call” like he had already set it up).  Well, he hadn’t.  We were supposed to.  So at 7:30 when we didn’t show up for breakfast, one of our friends came knocking on our door!  We were supposed to be on the tour bus at 8am!  So THEN, during my rush to get ready, I plugged my hair-dryer into the adapter we had bought (for the crazy European outlets), started drying my hair…..and then POW!!!  Hair-dryer and all the power in our room completely blew!  Lesson learned….you also must have a voltage converter in other countries.  Otherwise you will blow your appliances with most countries’ 220-volts trying to run through most of our 120-volt gadgets.  Needless to say, I didn’t blow dry my hair much the rest of the week 😉

Sea of Galilee-Day 1

Sunday, July 14, 2013

After our visit to Capernaum, we drove back to the Sea of Galilee for lunch and a boat ride.  Our first true Israeli meal…felafel and shawarma.  I have to say, I think I did pretty well on Israeli cuisine throughout the week, but these weren’t my favorite.  They are basically pitas filled with meat and veggies.

Anyways, after lunch we got a quick history lesson about the discovery of “the Jesus boat.”  It’s a wooden boat that was discovered buried in the sand in the 1980s by fisherman in the Sea of Galilee during a drought when the waters were significantly lower than usual.  Considering the great historical and Biblical significance of Israel, any archeological discoveries get major attention.  Obviously, it was most significant to determine the age of the boat.  Could it have been a boat that Jesus rode in?  Well, based on the construction of the boat (a peg-joint system), it’s shape, and carbon testing of organic materials, it is estimated this boat was used during the Second Temple period (roughly 50 BC-50 AD).  It also shows significant repairs were done to the boat over time, meaning it was probably used for several decades.  There were also other artifacts discovered in the area around the boat, including an oil lamp and some nails, which help date the boat.

All that to say, it’s definitely a boat that would have been used during Jesus’ time by a fisherman on the Seas of Galilee, but there is no way to prove whether any disciples or Jesus Himself may have ridden in this boat.  Either way, it is pretty dang cool!

It measures 27 feet long and about 7 feet wide.  All that remains is the hull of the boat.  A small replica has been built to show what it probably looked like in it’s original form.July14 (116) July14 (118) July14 (119)July14 (124)July14 (121) July14 (123)

The boat was extremely delicate.  They had to keep it wet as they excavated it to prevent the wood from crumbling.  Then, to move it, they had to encase it with fiberglass to maintain it’s form, and then removed that once they got it to the museum for further preservation.

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After our little history lesson, we went out on our own boat onto the Sea of Galilee.  It was so peaceful out there.  Our boat captain played Christian music during our ride and we just sat and soaked up the beauty around us.  The waters were so calm.  One of the guys on the boat even had some fishing nets that we cast out.  Of course we had no luck.  Daytime isn’t the best time for fishing.July14 (127) July14 (128) July14 (130) July14 (135)July14 (137) July14 (139) July14 (141)

Jesus spent a lot of time on the Sea of Galilee.  Most of the disciples were fisherman, so they lived in towns close to the seas.  Jesus walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and called Simon Peter to walk on the waters (Matthew 14).  It is also the lowest (freshwater) sea on the Earth (nearly 700 feet below sea level).July14 (143) July14 (146)July14 (150) July14 (153) July14 (158)July14 (160) July14 (161)

Discovering Israel-Day 1

I really don’t know where to begin in describing our trip to Israel a few weeks ago.  It was an amazing trip, and I’m SO glad we decided to go.  We went with some other couples from our newlywed Sunday School class as well as our teachers and their 3 kids.  We left Birmingham early Friday morning July 12 and flew to Atlanta.  Then from Atlanta we flew to JFK airport in New York.  After several hours of layovers, we didn’t actually fly out of the US until midnight.  Israel is 8 hours ahead of our time at home, and we flew all night (for 12 hours).  By the time we landed in Tel-Aviv, Israel, it was around 5pm Saturday July 13 their time.July12 (1) July12 (4) July12 (7)We took a 2 hour bus ride to our hotel in Tiberias (off the Sea of Galilee), arrived just in time for dinner and then pretty much went to bed for the night.July13 (4)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The next morning we got up bright and early and drove over to the Mount of Beatitudes.  This is a mountaintop  northwest of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount to the multitudes of people who had been following him.  It says in Matthew 5 that when Jesus saw the multitude of people he went up on the mountain, sat down and began to speak.  Here he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of Heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…” These teachings are what is referred to as the Beatitudes.  And like most sacred locations in Israel, there was a temple built on the top of this mountain.  Most places we went to that historians and archeologists have determined are actual sites where Biblical events took place, certain religions have built churches/temples/chapels on the sites.July14 (4) July14 (9) July14 (12) July14 (13) July14 (16) July14 (20) July14 (29)July14 (34)

Next we drove back down the mountain to the banks of the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberias).  Historians believe this is one of the location where Jesus appeared to his disciples (after the resurrection).  John 21 explains that a few of the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee trying to fish but with no success.  Jesus appeared on the bank, and called out to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  When they did this their nets were filled with fish.  When the disciples got to shore, Jesus invited them to have breakfast with him.  He asked Simon Peter, “do you love me,” to which he responded, “yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then instructed Simon Peter to “feed my sheep.”

So we walked down to the shoreline and stepped foot into the Sea of Galilee.  The water was so pretty and clear along the shore.  Instead of sand, there were tons of rocks/pebbles along the shoreline.  We picked some up and brought them home 🙂 July14 (35) July14 (37) July14 (42) July14 (47)July14 (46) July14 (58) July14 (59) July14 (49)July14 (60) July14 (61)

Next we walked across the street and up the side of a mountain to a small cave.  I cannot remember for the life of me who wrote about looking up from the Sea of Galilee and seeing Jesus and his disciples gathered together in a cave.  But someone did.July14 (62) July14 (63) July14 (66) July14 (68)July14 (71) July14 (75)July14 (76b) July14 (76)

Next we headed to Capharnaum (Capernaum).  This was one of the towns Jesus lived in as an adult.  He was born in Bethlehem, lived some of his childhood years in Nazareth, and then lived in Capernaum for a while as an adult.  He performed many miracles here and taught in the synagogue.  Simon Peter also lived in Capernaum, and (as I said before), there is a modern day church built above the remains of Peter’s house and a 4th (or 5th) century church.   It’s octagonal shape is what indicates it was a church.

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These are remains of houses in the city of Capernaum.  In Mark 2: 1-12, we learn that Jesus was in Capernaum and many people found out and went to hear Him speak.  Some men brought their paralytic friend in hopes that Jesus would heal him.  They couldn’t get in the doorway, so they removed a portion of the roof and lowered the paralytic into the room with Jesus.  Because of their faith, Jesus healed him.  These accounts likely took place in one of these houses…July14 (89) July14 (91) July14 (92)

The black stones along the lower foundation are from the original synagogue which would have been in place during Jesus’ time.  The white stones are from another synagogue built to replace the older one later in time (4th century AD).July14 (99)July14 (96)

At most places we visited, our tour guide Andre would sit us down under a shady tree and teach us about the significance of the location.  He would explain historical facts to us as well as Biblical facts.  He would refer back to Scripture and use archeological facts to back up events from the Bible.  Just the thought of finding a shady spot under some trees to do our little talks felt so similar to things Jesus would have done with his disciples and followers.  It is hot in Israel and the sun is brutal.  Finding a shady spot to sit and listen to Jesus would have made so much sense.July14 (98b)July14 (98)

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After Capharnaum, we drove to a spot for lunch and a boat ride out on the Sea of Galilee.   Stay tuned…