A Travellerspoint blog

November 2019

Jerusalem!

Thursday was amazing. And full. We were on the bus headed to Jerusalem by 5:30. When we arrived about an hour later we headed up onto the Mount of Olives. Spread out before us was Jerusalem in all its splendor.
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Sitting there I just absorbed all the sights and sounds while they read scripture about Jerusalem. The walls gleaming golden in the morning sun. The sound of traffic on the valley between us and the Old City. The gold and blue Dome of the Rock. The church with the sparking "golden onions" towering over the olive trees scattered across the hillside. The hundreds of white tombstones sloping down the mountain. Across the Kidron Valley, the Eastern Gate through which the Messiah will return, to the left the Southern Steps that led to the Temple Mount. I could have sat there forever gazing at the city. The center of the world. The place where my heart dwells. Yerushalayim. I listened to the song Yerushalayim by the boys choir which comes from the scripture "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so Yahweh surrounds His people." Memories came back of our own entrances into Jerusalem listening to that song. After we finished there, we had a long steep walk first down into the valley then up into the Old City. It took about half an hour with the size group we had. Along the way many of the Hayovel staff were singing the Songs of Ascents in Hebrew from the book of Psalms. I was impressed that the ladies that were over 80 years old chose to walk and not take the bus, and they were breezing along like it was nothing.
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We entered the Old City and headed up the bridge to the Temple Mount, which is open only a few hours a day to non Muslims. A female police officer briefed us on the fact that we were not allowed to pray or have any sort of religious books or symbols with us. The Temple Mount police know and respect Hayovel as if they were a Jewish group because of how they treat the Temple Mount with the same reverence. When our turn came, they escorted us up to the mount but then stood back and allowed our leaders to teach us about what had happened up there. The awareness that we were standing in the place where the first and second Temples both stood was quite an awe inspiring feeling. A number of us removed our shoes as a sign of respect for being on holy ground. We did not go up onto the area of the actual Dome of the Rock, because Jewish people will not go up there because the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies once stood there. We circled the outer courts and while we were not officially allowed to pray, as hard as the Muslim religious leaders watched us for any sign of lip movement, they cannot read the heart. It was an experience for sure.

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As we exited the Temple Mount into the Muslim Quarter, many of us backed away much as the Jewish people do when leaving the Western Wall. One person asked why, and we told them it is a sign of respect for the presence of God that once inhabited the place. A Jewish mother and son were there and saw it, and it led to a conversation with the leaders of the group on who we were. She had never met Christians who showed that kind of respect and reverence, and was moved to tears. She mentioned the prophecies being fulfilled about the Gentiles helping the Jews. A group of orthodox men started singing and dancing at the gate to the Temple Mount, and one of our men joined in. It was really amazing. Then we all started singing Am Israel Chai. Eventually we headed down the narrow street into the main thoroughfare to the Western Wall. I took up the rear some of the time, to make sure the people at the end of the line knew where we were going. We had a considerable group of 72 people, so there is obviously a lot to keep track of. We made it to the Western Wall plaza and were given time to pray at the Wall. I stood behind a couple of Jewish women waiting for a spot to open up. We were surrounded by women rocking and praying and crying out from their hearts. When a spot finally opened up, I stepped up to the wall and leaned my forehead against the ancient stones.

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And instantly it was as if I had never left. The past two years of longing to stand at that place once more was fulfilled. I was overwhelmed with an intensity of emotion I can't put to words, and treats began streaming down my face as I just spoke to Abba there. Hundreds of notes and prayers filled every crevice, and the sound of many languages speaking to God surrounded me. On the other side of the barrier I could hear the men singing and clapping their hands. Standing there I could only think of the verse about the people returning to their land and dwelling in Jerusalem.
All too soon it was time for us to leave, and I slowly backed through the crowd away from the wall. I know I will be back again.
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We walked from there to the square by Moshe Kempinski's Shoreshim shop, where everyone ate the lunch that had been packed for us. I also bought one of the Israeli coffee flavored slushy drinks. It was refreshing after being in the hot sun for so long. After lunch a large portion of the group went to hear Moshe speak. Not everyone would fit in his store so I opted out to allow the first timers to have the chance to hear him speak. Ms. Sherry Waller asked if I wanted to join herself and some of the other girls to go visit Udi Merioz at the Blue and White art gallery. We have known Udi for a long time ourselves, so it was a nice visit. He have all of us a small free print. I chose one he painted recently of the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of Yeshua's garment. His paintings have changed since since an experience he had a few years ago, when many of them started pointing to Yeshua.

After that we headed back to the square to wait for the rest of the group. Once they came out of Shoreshim I went in to say hi to Moshe. Then Zac Waller took everyone on a tour of the Old City. We walked through the Arab Shuk, which is an experience. I ran after a woman who tried to take off to go shopping. They preferred us staying together so I convinced her to stay with the group. We went up on the rooftops and overlooked the city from that perspective. Then We wound our way back through the maze of streets in the Jewish Quarter, which were filled with children playing and running home from school. Zac reminded is of the prophecy that days "Children will play in the streets of the city, and joy will be heard once again." Eventually we were back at the square where we originally started.
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We were given free time after that so I took a few people to the Jaffa gate area to shop, then headed to Ben Yehuda Street.
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After shopping we headed back to the Old City and got falafels.
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By then it was about time to meet up and head back to the bus. I snuck around the corner to the overlook and took one final look at the Wall. It was dark by then, and everything looked beautiful lit up with spotlights. I lingered for a moment, not wanting to leave. Then I whispered "Next year in Jerusalem" before heading back up the stairs and walking to the square we were all to meet at. It is so hard to leave that place.

We headed back from Jerusalem in the dark. Everyone was ready for bed after the long day of walking.

Yesterday we were back out in the vineyards at Shiloh harvesting. It was awesome. The rows were really long and it was hot, but everyone worked well together, first deleafing the vines, then picking the grapes. We are lunch in an olive grove under the shade of the trees. Some of us tasted the ripe black olives. Blech. Definitely oil and not table olives. They were so bitter.
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After the work was finished we headed back to the base to get ready for Shabbat. We had a wonderful festive Shabbat meal, and a very relaxing day today. Some of us girls got together and sat overlooking the mountains singing songs for a long time. We could see from the Mediterranean to the mountains of Jordan, the entire width of the nation. Quite an amazing sight

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Posted by Jordan Long 12:05 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

The end of the journey...or is it just the beginning?

have fallen behind again. One day blends into another here. The other day we left by 530 to drive south of Jerusalem to a small community in the Judean hills where we had the opportunity to pick olives. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive. Olive harvesting was actually fun. We had to take small plastic rakes and basically comb the olive branches to detach the olives. A few times I climbed up into the middle of the tree to reach the taller branches. It was hot and dusty work, but a lot of fun.
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We could see the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan from where we stood, right on the edge of the desert. 
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Once we finished, we ate lunch in the olive grove, then drove to Gush Etzion a short distance away. There we saw the very emotional presentation on the pioneers who tragically were killed there during Israel's war for independence when the communities were destroyed. No matter how many times I see that, it never stops being emotional. After there we drove to another community where Ari Abramowitz lives. Ari ias a man who hosts a radio program and has been one we have followed for a long time. He also spoke at our church, which he remembered. From the hilltop there we could see Jerusalem. The view was amazing. We saw his house, the synagogue they're building, and a retreat center they are hoping to open to the public eventually.

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By that time the sun was beginning to set over the desert hills, painting the sky pink and orange. The drive back to the base took almost 3 hours with the traffic in Jerusalem. We pretty much ate supper and went to bed. Yesterday we harvested grapes in the community of Ofra. Many of the grapes were table grapes this time instead of wine grapes, and the wine ones we harvested grew on tiny clusters. It was harder work climbing through thorns and thistles to access the vines.
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After the harvesting was finished there, we headed up to the community to eat lunch in the park, which had green grass- a luxury here in Israel. Then we had a tour of the community and of the hilltop above, on which stood at one point a community. About 2 years ago the community was destroyed when the Israeli Supreme Court deemed it was illegal. What we are seeing here in the communities is that the very move to help ther Palestinians is actually both hurting them and creating more division between them and the Israelis- divisions that would not have existed otherwise.

After that we drove to ancient Shilo and toured there.
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So much more excavation has been done just since our last trip to Israel. It was amazing, as always, to stand in that spot where the tabernacle once stood. I picked up a piece of pottery and held it as I thought about what it would have looked like in those times. What the story of that pottery was. Who made it? Who was the person who brought that vessel up to Shilo for the feast at the Tabernacle? And how did it all relate to me? What was the connection that brought me here to this same place? For me, a love for God. A love for His people, a love for His land. Being part of something bigger than myself, helping rebuild the ancient ruins in a way. The people have returned to the land of their ancestors. And now we are helping them plant vineyards and harvest the fruit. Working alongside the people of God. For the first time in history. Last night was our grand finale dinner...they served Shawarma and special dessert and gave us our certificates for completing the 2 week harvest.

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Today we headed to Shilo once again for the last grape harvest of the season.
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I was part of picking the last grapes for 2019. It was as amazing feeling. And I believe quite significant for it to be at Shilo. It's a connection to the ancient roots. The vineyards are once again planted here on the mountains of Samaria. The bible speaks of the vineyards at Shilo. And now here we are again. It it's like the archaeologists who dig up the remains, then put the pieces back together to form a picture of what once was. Now we are living out the fulfillment of the prophecies spoken back then. I'm thankful for this trip. For everything I was blessed to be a part of. For the people I have met and my fellow harvesters who became like family over the past couple weeks.
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Saying goodbyes as people begin to leave is hard. We have experienced so much together. We have seen the amazing impact on the Israeli farmers we have helped, and even others who heard about who we are and were taken aback by Christians helping them. For that, it its priceless. We truly fulfilled our mission. It has been an amazing trip. Yet I am eager to return home now. There is a sense of completion. I believe I did everything I came to do. And now it's time to return home tomorrow and see what the next steps are to walk out. It is the a journey. And this journey has only begun. Shalom from Har Bracha, Israel.

Posted by Jordan Long 09:18 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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