May 26, Sunday
Boker Tov, good morning…we board the bus and head out early, leaving Netanya, the city along the sea, going back to Tel Aviv. As we go, we travel through the 'Beverly Hills' of Israel, the road is lined with homes of the wealthy, homes surrounded by gardens of flowers, olive trees and palm trees. As we enter the city David points out the place where the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, we are now in the center of the political Tel Aviv near Rabin square.
Tel – an ancient land and Aviv – a spring, something new. And yes, it is, the place where Israel is made new, proclaimed a state. A man named Theodore Hurtzil had a dream, a dream to bring the people home, the remnants of the Jews from the four corners of the earth; a people that had been scattered from their promised land by the way of wars, persecution and suffering…but were now being called back.The people came, and in 1948 a new Israel was established, signed and sealed here in this place, The Independence Hall of Tel Aviv.
“Behold, I will take the People of Israel from the Nations among which they have gone and will gather them from the four corners of the earth and bring them to their own land.”
On to lunch at Gil Gal, a roof top experience, taking in the view and tasting the fragrant food of Israel. In this small hotel, in a lower room we hear about the work of a Messianic Jew, a man whom along with his wife are part of a group of Jews who believe that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah. From this place these simple people proclaim the truth to the people of the streets here in Tel Aviv, holding classes, discussions and passing out pamphlets…a simple couple with an amazing story, missionaries in this political part of Israel.
Once again we board the bus, heading out to Tiberius, where we will spend four nights at Emilis Hotel. A hotel nestled above the Sea of Galilee, an unassuming, yet modern Hotel on the edge of an ancient city.
We travel along roads lined with fields of sunflowers and Eucalyptus trees, trees brought here from Australia with the idea that the roots of these trees would absorb the swampy lands, this in an attempt to make the land usable, yes, but also with the hopes of putting a stop to the malaria that was spreading among the people.
We travel through the fertile Jezreel valley past the hills of Samaria and on to Megiddo along the ribboning road called Dar Heim…the Way of the Sea. On to Caesarea, the place where Herod the Great built his massive Harbour and entertainment center, a place where people lived lavishly splendid lives, a place that bragged amphitheaters and hippodromes, stage productions and chariot races. The harbour where massive stones were lowered into the sea to form a place for great ships to safely lie at anchor, a striking Port city built by the best architects and engineers of the time…inspiring, awesome beyond imagination…a harbour, that now lies under the sea. A silent harbour where we can hear the ghosts of the ships who sailed here, the bustling activity of the port, the people, we hear them in the sprays of the sea that reach us by the breeze, the breath of the wind, speaking for the people who once lived here.
Years later this great Port comes under Roman rule and the palace becomes the home of Pontius Pilate, the proof found, his name discovered engraved in stone proclaiming him the Procurator of the time, it is a place where Paul was imprisoned for two years and it is the place where Peter came to preach to Cornelius.
“At Caesarea, there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian regiment. He and his family were devout and God-fearing. An angel of God came to him and said “Cornelius, your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a remembrance before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
This is the beginning of the gospel being spread to the gentiles, starting with Cornelius, the whole of his family, his servants…to you and to me.
For now, home again to Emilis for dinner and then a stroll down to the market place at Tiberius, where we find a hub of carnival activity, people overflowing the streets, families together holding the small hands of their children, grandmothers following behind, old men gathered at the tables, young people dancing to the music that fills the air, vendors in their outdoor shops, shops filled with skirts and shawls all cotton and lace, cashmere fringed, toys and candy, dangling beads of a thousand colors, jewelry of silver and gold and servers calling you into their cafés to enjoy garlic bread, french fries and beer…all of this lining the promenade that leads down to the sea…the Sea of Galilee.
I love that.