Friday, September 30, 2011

Reflections on My Trip to Israel - Day 7 of 10

In a massive restoration project for the land of Israel, since 1902 more than 280 million trees have been planted, and to help this project, in connection with the government of Israel, Pastor Peter Youngren has launched the Grace Biblical Forest.
Pastor Peter upholds that the planting of the Grace Biblical Forest “is a unique opportunity to be part of a deeply meaningful, prophetic fulfillment” (Isaiah 32), and he is planting 100,000 trees, many of which are fruit-bearing. To this end, Errol and I grasped the opportunity to leave a tree planted in Israel in our names. So we have a tree, basking in the sunshine of Israel and serving a worthwhile purpose in that land which means much to us.

We drove through the Jordan (Rift) Valley to Beit She’an, an ancient city that has existed since the time of King Saul and visited the remains of a Roman theatre (circa 1 AD) that has been excavated there. On that day it was blazing hot, and as usual, at every place we visited, I looked for two things: a cool, shady spot and a place to sit, but this time I did not find either of that, so I just had to deal with the heat as I admired the view.

I could just imagine the grandeur of Beit She’an and the Roman theatre in its hey day 6,000 years ago. The theatre boasted a semi-circular design cut into the hillside and seated 7,000 people in rows of limestone seats. In my imagination I could see the crowds and sporting events, and other entertainment of the day. In that place in particular, we were so close to ancient history, we could almost touch it.

There are still ongoing excavations taking place in Beit She’an. You can see the remains of the theatre in one of today’s pictures….who knows what else will be unearthed! If ever you go to Israel, Beit She’an should be a must-visit place on your list.

Another must-visit place on your list should be Nazareth Village, which is very interesting! This is a village scene created in Nazareth that shows the way the community looked in Jesus’ early years. It is a live scenario that really gave us the feel of first century living, with a show-and-tell atmosphere. Visit their website here

It is not as hectic Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Nativity or even the Via Dolorosa, but it is a quiet, rural setting with shepherds and grazing sheep. However, there was much uphill climbing on rocky, rough terrain.

Imagine how it was in those days…no supermarkets, no refrigeration for food, no fast foods, and all work was manual with home-made equipment and carpentry tools, and every meal was prepared from scratch.

At Nazareth Village, men and women wore traditional first-century garb, moving around gracefully as they demonstrated how chores were done in those early days. They showed us how wool was spun, dyed and woven to make clothing. The cloths were dyed with onion skins for brown colours, and specific fruits for other colours.

They showed how garments were made, how wine was made, how grain was ground, how olives were pressed to extract oil, and how sheep were raised. It was a step into the past to catch a glimpse of how life was in Jesus’ boyhood days.

Another interesting stop on that day was at Cana of Galilee where Jesus did His first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. Frankly, I always wonder why Jesus bothered to turn water into wine for the guests at the wedding. He could have easily told them to go home because the wine had run out…

We saw Mary’s Well where tradition says that Mary, while fetching water from the well, received the announcement from the angel Gabriel that she would bring forth Jesus, our Saviour. The well is fed from a spring called Mary’s Spring. And though the place of the annunciation is not recorded in the Bible, the traditional account is very ancient.

Then there was baptism in the Jordan River. One can never imagine the feeling of being at the very river where Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descending like a dove upon Him. We might not know the exact spot of Jesus’ baptism, but we know it was the Jordan River, and knowing this does something to the believer’s soul. I lost count of how many were baptized by Pastor Peter Youngren in the Jordan on that day, but I know there were many. In some places the Jordan is just a mere stream but at the place for baptism it is a mighty river.

We spent that night at the Rimonim Hotel and were in time for the May 14th celebration of Israel’s 63 years as a nation. It was great to be in time for celebrating Israel’s national birthday with her. As I reflected on the occasion, I realized that Errol and I chose the right time to visit Israel: just at her national birthday. At a park near our hotel there was a lot of celebration going on. Partygoers had a great time in the park all night having fun, fireworks, singing and dancing.

That evening, after dinner, we had another dynamic teaching by Pastor Peter and eagerly looked forward to the next day when we would be going on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee!

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