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 😉
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. 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.
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.
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!