Friday, February 10, 2012

Reflections on My Trip to Israel - Day 10 of 10

Alas, we were coming close to the end of our pilgrimage in Israel. Our luggage was all packed and on the bus, and when we left Mount Carmel we headed for Tel Aviv to spend our final night there at the Grand Beach Hotel.

We arrived at the Grand Beach Hotel as the sun was going down and did not see much of Tel Aviv but I saw enough of that city to like it. Tel Aviv is beautiful and is sometimes described as the White City or the Shining City. The buildings are all white and they glistened in the late afternoon sun. Its shimmering whiteness was attractive to me, and for this reason the next time I visit Israel (which I hope will be soon), I want to see more of Tel Aviv.

There is something peculiar about the last few hours we spend in a strange place. As much as we like being in the place, when those last few hours arrive our minds begin to make a right about turn. We begin to think about home-sweet-home.

Next morning, we were up early for breakfast and anticipation of the flight home and saw a little more of Tel Aviv as we drove through the city to the Ben Gurion Airport. I left Israel with one major complaint, though. I did not see enough of Tel Aviv.

It was somewwhat sad saying “goodbye” to our bus driver, Obadiah (Ovad) and tour guide, Doron. They were great companions of ours for the past 10 days and they had helped make our pilgrimage to the Holy Land a pleasant and fulfilling one.

At last we boarded the plane for the long flight home, and in my heart I said “Goodbye Israel, I will be back again some day…I hope soon.”

What did my trip to Israel accomplish for me? What impact did that trip make on my Christian roots? Firstly, it satisfied a longing in me to visit the Holy Land. Seeing the place where Jesus was born, where He walked, died and resurrected have given me a sense of achievement and spiritual fulfillment. It was a longstanding dream come true. And now I can attach some images to both Old and New Covenant stories.

Would I recommend the trip to anyone else? Yes, I surely would. Israel is an interesting place to visit. Seeing the place where the three major world religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) and the Druzes, march through time together, side by side…

There is a lot to see and do in Israel and I hope you will make the trip soon.

I guess I have caught the Jerusalem syndrome, in a peculiar way. Since I have come back, my head is full of Israel: its multiculturalism, its variety of languages, food, and last but not least its bartering of prices for merchandise. That place is so much in my mind that I have started my studies in the Hebrew language again, and Israelology in general, even Aramaic (the language that Jesus spoke).

We made friends with a couple from Toronto: George and Faye Springle. And it is nice to touch base with them now and then to reminisce about our trip.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6) “…but peace shall be upon Israel (Psalm 125:5) “Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel” (Psalm 128:6).

The peace of Israel is on its way. Though it may tarry, it will surely come. Despite all that is going on, let us remember that "God’s thoughts and His ways are not our thoughts and ways" and His timing is not our timing either. A wise man once said: “God’s mill grinds slow but sure...” And oh, don’t bother to look for that saying in the Bible for it is not there!

God bless you, Israel, till we meet again...

Reflections on My Trip to Israel - Day 9 of 10

From Galilee we drove to Capernaum, a place that Jesus visited often and saw the site of an ancient synagogue, and the site of the house of Peter. Then we visited the Mount of Beatitudes, the place where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, and drove up the Golan Heights to Caesarea Phillipi.

There is something about the Holy Land that does a work on you, yet one visit is like the seeing the tip of an iceberg. There is s-o-o-o much to see and do. I hope you will make the trip soon.

It was a full day of activities and we were more than happy to be back at our hotel and look forward to dinner, another teaching by Pastor Peter Youngren, and a well-deserved rest for the night. Next day, we visited Megiddo and Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah defeated the worshippers of Baal.

At last, our visit to Megiddo, one of King Solomon’s walled cities in ancient Israel. This place holds a history of ancient palaces, fortresses and temples, and history tells us that King Solomon built a palace there.

Megiddo (which is a Hebrew word) is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as Armageddon (which is Greek) and is said to be the site where the final battle of good and evil will be fought. I collected several small stones on Megiddo to remind me of that final battle, and have placed them in my collection of souvenirs from Israel.

Tradition tells us that on Megiddo there are remains of at least 20 ancient cities built one on top of the other. This tells us that much destruction and rebuilding happened here on Megiddo. You know, when we really stop to think of history, there has been a lot going on in the world from the beginning of time till now! We seem to get caught up with just a small portion of time and it takes a jolt to remind us that the world has been busy for thousands of years, and this becomes more real to us as we visit ancient lands.

From Megiddo we continued to Haifa and ascended Mount Carmel, the place where Elijah defied the 450 prophets of Baal. And in memory of that outstanding bit of biblical history there is an impressive statue of the prophet Elijah with his sword raised to heaven in triumph over one of the fallen Baal prophets.

However, I learned much more about Mount Carmel. Imagine my surprise when our tour guide told us that the name “Mount Carmel” refers not only to one mountain, which was the one we stood upon (the most important one to visitors in the country), but a range of mountains. In my simple thinking I always thought the name “Mount Carmel” referred to just one mountain. And herein lies the beauty of actually going to historic places and seeing them for oneself.

At the top of the mountain where there is the statue of Elijah, there is also a lot of activity: souvenir shops, chapels and a panoramic view of surrounding areas. I tell you the view from that high place is something else. It is simply beautiful.

Since ancient times Mount Carmel has been known as a sacred place. For example, legends tell that Pythagoras, sixth century Greek mathematician visited Mount Carmel and spoke of it as “the most holy of mountains…” I felt I could have stayed there for hours on Mount Carmel, drinking in its breathtaking beauty, cool breezes and sacred legends which are many.

The name “Mount Carmel” always held an attraction for me and for this same reason I named my ministry after it, e.g. New Vision Ministry of Mount Carmel, in remembrance of Elijah’s great defeat of the 450 prophets of Baal. I have always been enthused by that biblical account. In it, Elijah affirmed his allegiance to Yahweh, God of Israel who rained His fire from heaven upon his altar of sacrifice though much water was poured upon it. Talk about drama and victory! Read all about it at 1 Kings 18:20-46.