Saturday, April 26, 2014

This year in Jerusalem | And praised be the Lord

Jerusalem is the centre of the world :)

After always kind of dreaming that I would go one day to the Holy Land, but never actually believing that it would happen... my good friend Janice left Bosnia to go live there 5 years ago and was always inviting Ljilja and me to go visit her there... and I kept thinking "next year" and then another year would go by and we wouldn't go... And then sometime last year Janice let me know that this may well be her last year in Israel and if I wanted to come, I needed to get a move on. As I am turning 40 this year in June, I decided that it would be a good thing to do to start celebrating my 40th! And started looking at ticket options... As Janice was only free over Easter (and this year it was Passover, and BOTH Easters at the same time) I was actually surprised to find some really reasonably priced tickets (granted out of Budapest, a 6 hour drive away) and so the game was on...

We had a HUGE hiccup when Ljilja tried to apply for her visa (she needs one on her Bosnian passport, whereas I have my lovely British one!) and was told that the Embassy was on strike!! All the Israeli diplomats around the world went on strike and she was caught in the middle. Praise the Lord about 10 days before we were due to go, the strike ended and we were able to get her visa and we were good to go!

Before we went, I asked a few questions about logistics, including asking Janice about how to get from the airport to her house (they have shuttle taxis, and so to find out about that...) this was her reply:

Okay, this one is much more tricky so you might need to write it down.  First, after customs, you walk through the big double doors.  As you walk through them you have to do two things: first look for the person with blonde hair jumping up and down frantically waving their arms wildly with excitement. Secondly: listen carefully for the screams and shrieks of "Ljilja...Belinda... over here!!!!!!!".  Did you write all of that?

It was then that I really started getting excited about the trip! Not only do I go to one of the most amazing places in the world to visit, but I get to see my buddy Janice, what's not to like :)

I am not going to give a blow-by-blow of what we did while we were there as that would take forever (we did fit a lot into 7 days!), but thought I would just share the highlights (and there were LOTS of those)...

#Renewing my baptism vows in the River Jordan is definitely the MAJOR highlight... Ljilja and I renewed, Janice did the baptising! And it was a very special day for all of us...


#The next biggest highlight for me was definitely the abundance of hummus :) Here I am digging in at the Lake of Galilee :)


#Another major highlight was the Dead Sea: we floated...
 And also did the mud:
It was a fantastic day! And we took the bus there and back and that was an experience in itself! :)


#We also spent one day in Tel-Aviv/Jaffa (as we had to hire a car to get up to the Galilee and River Jordan - and the minimal rental was 3 days - we took advantage!). And it was a lovely day: We even got to spend some time on the beach :)

View from the beach to the old city of Jaffa:
 View from the top down: (and Ljlija looking great in both pics:)


As we were staying in Jerusalem, we had quite a few opportunities to go into and around the sites of the Old City and there really is soooo much to see. The highlights were:

#Wailing wall: and we did go and pray here:

#The Garden Tomb: where many believers believe that Jesus was crucified and buried:

#The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: where others (mainly Orthodox and Catholic believers) believe He was crucified and buried and come from all over to be here for Easter: And of course we went down on Good Friday and joined in the madness... not recommended! But it was an interesting experience...

#The Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives: And an olive tree old enough to have been here when Jesus walked these hills...

#For Easter dinner we were invited to join a family from Bosnia whose daughter was in Janice's class at the International School a couple of years ago. It was a typical Bosnian dinner, including pork and lamb and lots and lots of food. The husband works for USAID in the West Bank and they have been here 5 years, so it was nice also for them to have Bosnian company! After dinner we went for a walk along a promenade with lovely views of the old city:

#Janice's tortoise "turtle" who came every morning for his snack :) He isn't actually her tortoise - he belongs to the complex where she lives, and has lived there a LONG time (over 60 years at least!) He reminded me of the tortoises my grandparents used to have!


 
#The last day we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. I don't think you can call it a highlight, but it was something that I really wanted to do... It is really well done and even though I had been to the one in Washington, I was still overwhelmed once again by all the statistics and the individual lives that were affected on such a huge scale. You aren't allowed to take photos, but they had the following on the wall:



And praised. Auschwitz. Be. Maidanek. The Lord. Treblinka. And praised. Buchenwald. Be. Mauthausen. The Lord. Belzec. And Praised. Sobibor. Be. Chelmno. The Lord. Ponary. And praised. Theresienstadt. Be. Warsaw. The Lord. Vilna. And praised. Skarzysko. Be. Bergen-Belsen. The Lord. Janow. And Praised. Dora. Be. Neuengamme. The Lord. Pustkow. And praised…
— AndrĂ© Schwartz-Bart - The Land of The Just



And it put everything in perspective for me once again. In the good times we need to praise the Lord. And in the deepest, darkest, hardest, most unfathomable times... He is to be praised.  And that is something that I took away from Israel - even though it is a country more-at-less at war with its neighbours, with soldiers at every corner and checkpoints all along the way, it is a place where the Lord is to be praised. Even though reconciliation and peace look so far away right now for the region. God is to be praised. In all of my circumstances, whether enjoying the sunny weather or trying to make sense of the Holocaust: He is to be praised. That is why people went to Jerusalem on the feasts - to praise His name. And that is what I will try to remember, having been in Jerusalem for the feast this year... that He is to be praised not just in Jerusalem, but wherever I happen to be and whatever circumstances I find myself in... And praised Be the Lord!

3 comments:

Victor said...

Interesting. I also just took a trip there. We should talk and compare experiences and notes and thoughts and reflections. -V

Anonymous said...

It was an excellent blog on your time in Israel but I was a bit surprised that you didn't mention anything at all about Turtle. But no worries. I won't let him read what you wrote! Promise!!
; )

Belinda Chaplin said...

Yes, V, we should talk - it would be great to compare notes! And Janice, you can show turtle the blog now, I added him to it :) I was debating about doing it, but your comment put me over the edge!

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