Jordan to Israel
As a team we got to the airport on time, in fact most of the team got there early and that made me happy. The flight and layovers were good and we had no difficulties. We got to the Amman airport late afternoon and were not going to attempt crossing over to Israel since it would be a close call if we would find the border open. So our only option was to stay overnight at the airport and take the earliest transport to the border. We looked around for transport options so we would be settled for the next day and found a tour guide that could take us in his 7 seater van for cheaper than any other option. When he asked us at what hotel he can pick us up the next morning and we told him at the airport he was very surprised that we would stay the night in the airport. 20 minutes later he came back and offered us a nights stay on their family farm not far from the airport, he told us it had nothing and no one stayed there, but we had a lot of peace so we went with him. He bought us tea and sugar and some petrol for the gas stove and off we went. The next morning he came back from work at 5:30 to chat and have tea before we left for the border at 7. On the way he bought us coffee and we had our first experience of Turkish coffee. He also helped us at the Jordan border since he knew all the ins and outs and stayed with us till we were on the bus to the Israel side. A true man of peace he was and on the first day of the journey. We crossed the Israel side very easy and caught the only transport to Jerusalem were we got on the bus to Bethlehem. From there we had quite a walk to get to the nuns where we were staying. The day was cold and rainy, but it did not rain for the time we had to walk and that was a blessing. When we got to the nuns we were warmly received and got soup and food that truly blessed us.
The first 2 days in Bethlehem it was cold, but like really cold, 8C maximum in the day and raining. The place we stayed at was also very cold. The rain and cold meant that we could not help the nuns with the work they had set out for us since it was in their garden. This resulted in us just chilling and sleeping a lot since it was nice and warm. We started our journey in the Bible during this time since we had time. On the third day the sun started peeking out and we ventured outside to see some of the sights and sounds of Bethlehem. Day 4 saw us going to the garden and seeing the vast amount of weeds that we had to pull out, it kept us busy for 4 days. There was also a few other odd jobs around the garden that we had to do. Pulling weeds are not one of my favourite things in the world, but all the work was not a lot and we could take it easy. Bethlehem only gets water every 14 days so it was scares, we had a fright on the first day of working when we ran out of water, from then we were really spare on water use. This meant no showers and selective flushing, since all 6 of us were sharing the same bathroom this made us closer as a team. We also took a day to do sight seeing in Bethlehem and went to the Church of the Nativity and Milk Grotto. We tried going to a few other places but both were closed so in the end we walked a lot and did not see a lot. With the work your way team coming we found out that if we cleaned the small house in the garden we could stay there a few more days while the WYW guys would be staying in the housing we stayed at. We were extremely blessed in our time with the sisters not only giving us the occasional cooked meal, but a lot of veggies and chicken and lamb during our time there. We also had the privilege of spending time with one of the nuns and found out that she has a wicked since of humour. While there we visited Paul, a Palestinian who studied a year in Bloemfontein at Creare. I heard of him from one of the previous team members who randomly ran into him a few years ago since he heard them speaking Afrikaans, and since Christine is also part of Creare she heard about him so we looked him up. We spent a wonderful night with him and his wife and then a night at their church in Bethlehem.
The first 2 days we went to Jerusalem we stayed in the garden in Bethlehem and got a lift to Jerusalem, with 1 of the nuns who ran a school in Jerusalem, and took the bus back. The first day we decided to tackle the old city and sights, we started at the Mount of Olives and worked our way down to Gethsemane. There were a LOT of tourists, but some of the groups were english and that meant we could listen in on what we were looking at. From there we went into the old city and boy was it disappointing, it is the same shops all over and small cramped spaces with some really weird people running around. It is a maze and even with a map of places it is impossible to find them and the places you can find you need to pay for. We also could not get our timing right with the temple mount even if we tried twice during the day. By 12 after only about an hour inside the old city we wanted out. We had to meet a lady contact of Arne from Bridges of Peace and finally got in contact with her and went out of the old city into new Jerusalem, it was a lot better. We had some falafels with her and a great discussion. Once done we decided that we would rather explore the new city and go to the big open air market. It was great, the sights and sounds from there were so good. Day 2 in Jerusalem was marked for going to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum. We decided to walk there to save the train money, but it was a bit farther than expected and 1h15 later we got there. And we spent a long time there, it was very interesting and shocking and emotional all at the same time, a definite must for anyone who goes to Jerusalem. We had to take the train back to make it in time for the bus. Between day 2 and 3 we had a rest day in Bethlehem since we were invited to go spend a day and stay over with the lady we had lunch with the first day, she wanted us to meet her husband and 2 daughters. So we went early on a Thursday, also named daddy day in their house since that is the day that the father stays home with their 8 and 10 year olds and it became the practical, walk in the city and learn day of the home schooling program. We were drawn into this and got shown the other side of the old city, the cool side. We went to see places like David's tomb, the southern stairs, the fallen stones of the old temple destruction of 70 AC, the Upper room, The house of Caiaphas where Jesus was kept and jailed and Peter denied him (irony is the church of St Peter there is adorned with a big golden rooster) , the church of the Sepulchre (one of the possible places where Jesus was crucified and buried), The wailing wall, David's old city, the garden tomb (another possible place) and more. It really helps in the old city when you are with someone who know what is what. We also had a chat with a old orthodox Jewish man in a shop that he knows well and it blew my mind, I would love to have a good 2-3 days chat with that man. That evening we had a good dinner with the family and 2 volunteers of their organisation. The next morning we had a big breakfast and took a bus to Tiberius next to the see of Galilee.
See of Galilee
We got to Tiberius late on a Friday afternoon and that basically means everything goes in shut down for the Sabbath. We could not get info on the free camp-sites that is suppose to be everywhere so we started walking, in the wrong direction. After about 4h of walking some distance we ended up staying in a paid camp-site, it was so disappointing to have to pay. The next day we looked again, but this time without our backpacks and still could not find anything, late that afternoon we took the first bus back to Tiberius since we by then knew we walked the wrong way and knew where to camp there. On the bus we started talking to a local and he told us we were right next to the free beach, but if you don't know where you would never find it. Back in Tiberius we waited in the middle of nowhere since we felt that is what we should do, Christine felt that she should go speak to some people that she saw for the second time, turns out they are South African. After that we had dinner and started walking, it was still quite a walk and after some directions from the police that I pulled over we found a very cool place, random next to the road, no fences or gates just open grass, benches, shade and facilities. It looked cool so we camped there. We stayed there for 3 days. It was very relaxed and we even tried fishing the load of fish we could see but could not catch. On the day we had to be in Jordan we took the bus and some transfers, we had a very easy time at the border posts and found the Church easy.
o wow, what we did took a bit of space. So what happened to me...
It is a bit harder this year, it is such a different experience. Since my journey is not only my journey, but for now 5 others as well and you need to separate what happening. Lets start with team time, it was good, but hard time. We had a lot of free time, spend a lot of time in the word and saw God really working hard in all our lives, bringing breakthrough in some areas. We had to learn how to live together in small quarters, sharing a bathroom and low water. It was good. My own journey started asleep, I have not slept as much in the last 16 months as I did in the 2 weeks in Bethlehem. After some time was really challenged not to forget everything and become lazy. I was really challenged to pray a lot more and spend time in the word and it was really good for me. I was also very relaxed most of the time, much more than I would have thought I would be and am learning to spend time just being instead of doing.