A Travellerspoint blog

Israel

Shabbat in the Land

4:45 am
I didn't have a chance to write the other day when we got here....

It was different approaching Israel in the dark of night. It was 5:00 am when we landed, so the sun had not yet risen. I kept my eyes peeled out the window, squinting through the clouds to see any city lights. We were flying past a thunderstorm so every so often bright flashes of lightning illuminated the inky darkness. Finally I began to lights on the horizon. As they came closer I could make out the shoreline of Israel, the cities lining the coast. My eyes unconsciously filled with tears as we drew closer to what has become home to my heart. Soaring lower and lower over the buildings, circling back to line up with the runway, the giant bird swooped in for a landing and made a graceful touchdown. Instantly the whole plane broke out in applause and cheers. We had made it to Israel. The length of the delays and everything only made the anticipation greater for me. Now finally we had arrived.

Once we came through passport control, we met the guys from HaYovel in the greeters hall and went out to the bus. The hour or so drive from Tel Aviv to Har Bracha seemed surreal. The thought that I am actually here, in Israel. It was just an amazing feeling. As we turned northeast, the hazy middle eastern sun was just beginning to rise above the mountains of the Shomron, the warm beige colors of the rocky hills mixing with the painted sky. We drove by the Eshel Hashomron hotel in Ariel that we have stayed at so many times. Driving through all the towns that have become so familiar. Those beautiful rocky terraced hills covered in olive groves and scrub brush. It was just an indescribable feeling. The only part that kind of hit as a pang of sadness was that my church family was not there to share the journey with me. It was odd to be surrounded by strangers instead of family.

The Palestinian towns we drove through were like ghost towns. The streets were eerily deserted. Then I realized it was Friday...the Muslim holy day. All the shops were closed up and hardly anyone was out. We reached the Tappuach junction and headed on route 60, which is called the Highway of he Patriarchs. The same valley and nearly the same route as the ancients walked on. Then we began our steep, windy ascent up to the Mountain of Blessing, Har Bracha.

When we got to the base the rest of the harvesters with the trip waved at us from their posts in the vineyard.

We are staying in caravans that look like giant shipping containers. It's like glorified camping. But I actually find it more like a home. And it makes me feel closer to the Jewish communities around us. So many of the people live in these caravans when starting a new community.

Har Bracha, the mountain of Blessing. Where Joshua and the tribes spoke to the people of Israel, reading the blessings of keeping the Torah. Across the valley from us is Mount Ebal, the mountain upon which the curses were written. On the hill above us is the community of Har Bracha, named for the mountain which it sits on. The vineyards come up the side of the mountain all the way to the camp. It is so quiet and peaceful here. Just the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Anywhere we walk around the camp you can see biblical history. On one side I can see the towers of Jerusalem, on another the mountains of Jordan with the great Jordan Valley between. On the other side we can see the buildings of Netanya and Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast. From here we can see the entire width of the nation of Israel.

Once we got settled in our bunk rooms (I have the top bunk which is neat), we walked a short distance down the road to the area of the vineyard that we were harvesting. The workers showed us how to use the clippers to cut the grapes from the vines. Then we worked harvesting for a couple hours, collecting the remaining grapes from the vines. We worked in a rhythm, clipping, dropping the clusters into large buckets, moving around each other to another section of vine. It was a lot of fun. And just looking around realizing, I am harvesting the fruit in the land of Israel. The scripture in Jeremiah 31 prophesies that they will plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria, and that foreigners will be the harvesters. I am fulfilling prophecy.

After we finished we headed back up for a lunch of tuna salad, and then had an orientation meeting. Then we had free time to get ready for our big Shabbat meal Friday night. I wandered the property and for a while just sat looking out over the mountains and valleys. Just soaking in being in the Land. Eventually I headed inside because a thunderstorm moved through and it was pouring for a while. The rain is a blessing here, and comes around the harvest times in the spring and fall. It turned the red dirt into thick, sticky mud that covered the camp and was tracked everywhere.

Shabbat meal Friday night was fun. I sat with a great group of girls around my age. They did a mixture of traditional prayers and songs and candle lighting and blessing over the wine and bread.

Afterwards the lack of sleep was kicking in so we headed to bed. Sabbath morning was a bit more relaxed, breakfast wasn't until 8, and then we sat around in groups talking and had some really good conversations.

Shabbat service was at 10:00 and we sang and read the Torah portions for the week. Then Tommy Waller, the founder of HaYovel, got up and spoke. Then we had lunch (which was vegetarian lasagna made with zucchini noodles), and have about 2 hours until the men and women have separate teachings. I was grateful for a relaxed day to get adjusted to being here. Today we will be out in the vineyards working starting at 6:30 I believe, and Monday we will be going on a tour in the area.

We went for a walk around the camp on the road that encircles it. The wind had picked up and it was a bit chilly, but it was fun.

We had Havdalah, the service to end Shabbat, after supper. A lot of singing and Hebrew prayers. That was neat. Then there was a teaching session and I Skyped with everyone after. The clocks changed back last night here in Israel. Lights out is at 9:00 here, since the mornings are so early. Worship starts at 5:30.

I woke up at 3:00 wide awake, so decided to get up and get ready for the day and get some quiet time before everyone is up and about. Right now the Muslim call to prayer has been sounding for the last 20 minutes from the minarets in the mosques surrounding this mountain. It is an eerie sound in the pre-dawn darkness. Between the caravans I can see the lights of all the towns and cities flickering on the hilltops, sillhouetting them against the night sky.

The camp dog, Gunner, laid down on the picnic table next to me, ever guarding and scanning the horizon. He keeps the wild dogs away and warns of any people approaching. The IDF regularly comes up and drives around to make sure everything is ok.

This morning I was reading the words of the blessings and curses from Deuteronomy 28 and 29. Words spoken on this very mountain. It still never
fails to amaze me to be standing in a place where the Bible actually happened. I'm so thankful to be here.

Posted by Jordan Long 19:44 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Pictures

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Posted by Jordan Long 20:23 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Harvesting the Fruits of the Land

8:35pm
It's almost lights out....we have a really early morning tomorrow. We are all getting on the bus for 5:00am, to be able to be up at Elon Moreh for breakfast and sunrise. Tomorrow is a tour day.

Today we were harvesting in the vineyards here on Hat Bracha, down the slopes of Mount Gerazim. It got pretty warm, but it was a lot of fun. Every so often some of the harvesters would break out in a song and almost everyone would join in. So harvesting in the mount of Blessing, singing while we worked, we brought in the remainder of the harvest from this vineyard. Looking across the ravine we could see the outskirts of Nablus spilling over the hilltop. It was amazing how close it was.

I'm attaching a few pictures, then I need to head to bed.
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Posted by Jordan Long 11:35 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Galilee and Shiloh

I've fallen a bit behind. The internet connection was not so good earlier.

Yesterday was an amazing day. It's so hard to say a favorite place in Israel. There are so many. But the Sea of Galilee is at the top for me. We left at 5:30 for the 2 hour drive up to the Galilee. It was so beautiful watching the sun rise over the desert hills as we wound our way down into the Jordan Valley, the lowest place on earth. Heading northward, it never ceases to amaze me how fertile the land is. All throughout the valley, farms grow a variety of produce. Banana, coconut and date palms abound, flowers, vegetable plants. Scattered here and there Bedouin herdsmen guided their flocks through the hills in search of grass.  The rain that had fallen earlier dampened the air and moistened the soil. Further north, the border of Jordan ran perpendicular to the road we were travelling on, a tall barbed wire fence posted with signs warning of land mines. You could almost touch another country at that point. Across the valley the mountains of Jordan rose tall above plain. Rain clouds veiled some of them.
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Eventually the landscape changed as we began our steep ascent to the Golan Heights. The dizzying drops off the side of the road had skeletons of cars in some places that had not made the turns. A line of brought green vegetation marked the Jordan River's course through the ravine. A broken train bridge towered over it.
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Eventually we reached the top and everything flattened into the fertile plateau of the Golan heights, which stretched to the horizon looking much like something from one if the Midwestern States. Cattle ranches and vast fields and orchards covered the landscape.
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We pulled off to an overlook called Mitzpe Shalom, or the overlook of Peace and walked to a balcony. Before us was stretched out the entire sea of Galilee, sparkling blue against the surrounding hills. It was a bit hazy but we could make out the city of Tiberius and the jagged cliffs of Mount Arbel on the opposite side of the lake, and the various kibbutzim lining the shore. The air was clear and fresh, and a warm breeze was blowing.
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After that we made our way down into the basin of the Kinneret and headed to the ancient ruins of Capernaum, where Yeshua based most of his ministry around the lake. There was s lot of teaching, then we went down to the waters edge in a place where Dad had done some teachings last time we came. I felt a mixture of overwhelming joy at being there again, the lake that is such a refreshing place to me...and also a pang of sadness at the thought that my family was not with me there, for the first time. So many memories there, the pictures taken together. I sat on a bench looking over the water and just reflecting on the journey I am on, thanking the Lord for His faithfulness in bringing me back to His land.

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We had a while there, then headed to the Nof Ginnosar, where we ate a picnic lunch. Then we headed to the docks to board the boat. There is nothing like being out on that Sea in a boat. It just so happened that the boat was the very same one we had taken in 2017, so it was partially reliving the experience. I stood on the bow of the boat as we sailed out with "I Love Your Presence" playing in the background. It was such an amazing experience, there are simply no words to describe the feeling of the wind across my face, the sound of the waves gently lapping against the boat. And the perfect silence out there.
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Too soon we headed back to shore and boarded our bus for the 2 hour drive back to the base. The sun was setting as we reached the hills of the Shomron. It was a very long day. Everyone ate supper and headed to bed early.
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This morning we were on the bus by 6:30. I rode in the van this time. We headed across the valley to the vineyards of Shiloh. Another very special place for us. We started in one vineyard, and were reminded of the story in the bible where the daughters of Shiloh went out to dance in the vineyards. Then we headed by bus a short distance to another one, which was literally in the shadow of the Tabernacle platform. Looking up from the vines I could clearly see the ancient city of Shiloh and the flags of the tabernacle platform. It was an amazing feeling to be harvesting in this place where the ancient vineyards had once stood. And now the vineyards have been planted again. Simply amazing.
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It was a hot 5 hours on the sun, then we were back at the base for lunch and a guest speaker talking about Jerusalem. We had a couple hours of free time before supper and another guest speaker. Tomorrow we are on the bus for 5:30 heading to Jerusalem.

Posted by Jordan Long 11:54 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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)

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