Israel – 2010

Israel #1 – Israel by Invitation
April 12, 2010

Shalom,

Later this week, I have the privilege of heading to Israel with my family. This won’t be a typical guided tour of the Land. I highly recommend visiting Israel with a tour group (I’ve been on three organized tours myself), but we’re looking forward to the informality of this trip. Here are a few things that will make our trip different:

  • Our visit will last for three weeks, not the usual eight or ten days of a guided tour.
  • Rather than staying in a hotel, we’ve booked a three-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem for the duration of our stay.
  • Instead of travelling about on a tour bus, we plan to use public transit, cabs and a rental car.
  • We’re going to shop in local stores and markets for our food – not hotel restaurants.
  • We’ve planned and arranged most of our itinerary on our own rather than rely on travelling with a guide.
  • We plan to visit some of the typical highlights of a tour, but at our own pace.
  • We’re going to visit a number of less well-known tourist sites that don’t make it onto most tour itineraries.

But there’s another element that will make our trip a little different.

Last summer, my father, Rick Beurling, was contacted by a representative of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and invited to visit Israel as their guest. The purpose of this invitation was to honour Dad’s brother, the great Canadian WW2 fighter pilot, George Beurling (often called Buzz Beurling), who joined the Israeli Air Force in 1948 and who died before Israel’s War of Independence had ended.

Dad has been asked to lay a wreath at the Israeli Air Force service on Pilot’s Mountain outside Jerusalem during Israel’s Memorial Day (April 19); this day honours those who have died defending Israel or by terrorism. On another day, he will also have the privilege of attending a military memorial service for George at his grave in the Haifa Military Cemetery. Additional plans include a visit to one or two Israeli Air Force bases.

Needless to say, my mother, sister and I decided to join Dad and “supervise.”

We hope to have many moments when we can explain to Israelis just why Christians love the Jewish people. (Because of the Jewish Messiah, of course!)

Lord willing, we’ll arrive in Jerusalem on Thursday, so start watching the blog for our reports on Friday!

Israel #2 – Beurlings and Bagels
April 14, 2010

The car is packed and we’re ready to head to the airport!

I mentioned in my previous note that the catalyst for today’s journey from Toronto to Israel was the Israeli government’s desire to honour my uncle, George Beurling. Canadians who lived through World War II will probably remember reading about George in the newspapers. Younger Canadians may remember studying about him in history classes at school.

Let me refresh your memories by telling you a little about George Beurling.

George was born in Montreal almost 90 years ago. As he grew up, George became a wonderful athlete — swimming, diving and mastering marksmanship. But what George loved to do more than anything was fly; piloting an airplane was his greatest joy.

One day, England declared war on Germany, and George said, “Maybe I can help.” Soon he was helping in Europe as a fighter pilot with England’s Royal Air Force.

Before long, everyone was amazed at his almost supernatural eyesight and his genius with air strategies and the way he had completely mastered the science of deflective shooting.

By the end of the war, George had shot down more enemy aircraft in his Spitfire fighter plane than any other Canadian pilot. When he returned home to Canada, he was received with great fanfare and was regarded as a singular hero.

Not long after this war, the Jewish people of the world began to prepare for another war, which they knew would take place as soon as Israel proclaimed her independence. So the call went out for Jewish airmen who could help defend the new state of Israel.

George said, “Maybe I can help.”

But when he volunteered to join the fledgling Israel Air Force, they said to him, “You can’t help, you’re not Jewish!”

Then the enemy nations came to George and said, “Come and fight for us instead. We will give you a great deal of money!”

But George answered, “If I fight against Israel, I know that I will be fighting for the wrong side.”

So he persisted and eventually convinced the Israeli Air Force to accept him as one of their fighter pilots.

The Israelis sent him from Canada to Rome. From Rome he was to fly an airplane to Israel but, just after his plane took off, it caught fire and crashed. George was killed. He was only 27 years old.

The Jewish people buried him in Israel and inscribed on his gravestone,Killed in Action.

Even though I was born after George’s death, the events of his life have shadowed me most of my life.

Like George, I was carefully nurtured from birth by believing parents and grandparents. In fact, my father led me to place my trust in Jesus when I was only three years old.

Like George, the heroes of my childhood were the men and women of the Bible, people like Moses and Daniel, Esther and Paul. I was taught to be like them — to honour God, to serve God and to love God as they did.

As a child, I thought that since the people of the Bible were Jewish and we were like them, then it logically followed that we were Jewish too. After all, my grandfather read his Bible in Hebrew, and I knew that my Uncle George, the great hero, was revered by the Jewish people and was buried in Israel. Didn’t that mean we were Jewish too?

As I grew up, I gradually realized that we were not Jewish. It was quite a disappointment to me. But I had to admit that all the bagels on Bathurst Street — and I love bagels! — could not change the fact that I was a Gentile.

Nevertheless, at an early age, I began to understand that God’s work in my life was not rooted in my identity, but in His. God loves me because of Who He is, not because of who I am.

The Jewish community has continued to express appreciation for George and an interest in my family. Sometimes, this has been difficult for me to understand. George has been a story to me. He died decades ago. Yet the Jewish community keeps telling his story over and over.

Then something happened to ignite my passion and compassion for Israel and her people. In 1985, an Israeli official spoke briefly at the funeral of my grandfather (George’s father). The Israeli said that Grandpa had given to Israel the greatest gift a man could give — the life of his son.

I could not believe my ears! How I wanted to make this man understand that what he was describing was precisely what God Himself had done for Israel as well as the whole world! He gave the life of His Son!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Many of the Jewish people of Israel and Canada have identified the Beurling family, my family, as righteous Gentiles. Well, I am a Beurling who wants every Jewish person to know that my righteousness is not because of my name. Like any other person on this earth, Jewish or Gentile, the only righteousness I will ever know is because of Messiah Jesus. He is our righteousness.

“But by His doing you are in Messiah Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD”(1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My next post will be from Jerusalem!

Israel #3 – Welcome to Jerusalem
April 17, 2010

Shalom! We are here in Jerusalem safe and sound. As we adjust to this new time zone, we’re taking delight in all the sights and sounds of this wonderful city.
When we arrived on Thursday, our first task was to lay in some food supplies because, not only did Shabbat begin on the next afternoon (with almost everything closed for 24 hours), but Memorial Day and Independence Days will follow in quick succession. So we wanted to be sure we had enough food in the apartment to last us about a week. Shopping in the grocery stores and corner supermarkets is a challenge because most goods are labelled only in Hebrew. We’ve had to rely on pictures. Dad did try to talk me into buying a cleaning product he thought was laundry soap, but I was pretty sure it was something else since the pictures were of sparkling clean ovens and toilets! Nevertheless, we’ve succeeded in acquiring enough food to fill our fridge. Shop staff have been unfailingly helpful even when they don’t speak English.
Yesterday, we took a cab to the Old City and walked through the Armenian Quarter. Our first stop was a restaurant called the Armenian Tavern. From a simple door on the street, we went down some steep stairs into the basement which is lavishly decorated. We had the most wonderful lunch of grilled meats, grilled vegetables and pita bread. Afterward we walked out of the Old City by way of the Zion Gate and visited Mount Zion and the Upper Room. We saw many tour groups — some from Indonesia and Sri Lanka, some from Germany and Spanish-speaking countries.
The Upper Room is not, of course, the same room where Yeshua (Jesus) and the disciples had their last Passover together and where the disciples waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Shavuot (Pentecost). Rather, it is a room built by the Crusaders about 900 years ago in the spot traditionally believed to be the location of the original Upper Room. The architecture of this room reminded Dad and me of the many churches and cathedrals we saw in France some years ago — and not surprisingly since this room was built by men of the same period and nationality.
This morning we took a cab to the Garden Tomb and spent a wonderful hour wandering about the gardens of this pleasant and relaxing place. How delightful it is to step away from the crowds and heat to spend a few moments in the place that may have seen the most amazing day in history — when the Lord rose from the grave!
Afterward, we walked down the street to the area of the Damascus Gate. A few steps away from the Peddlers Market, we found the entrance to King Solomon’s Quarries or Zedekiah’s Cave. This amazing cave system was a quarry, some believe, for the stones of Solomon’s Temple.
“Solomon also had 70,000 porters and 80,000 quarriers in the hills, apart from Solomon’s 3,300 officials who were in charge of the work and supervised the gangs doing the work. The king ordered huge blocks of choice stone to be quarried, so that the foundations of the house might be laid with hewn stones” (1 Kings 5:29-31).

Others believe this cave system was where King Zedekiah hid from the Babylonians when Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed.

Whatever its origins, it is the largest artificial cave ever discovered in Israel. The cave mouth, right below the Old City wall, was blocked hundreds of years ago and rediscovered in 1854. It was opened for tourists in 1985, with a pathway and lights through the cavern. The cave extends under the Old City itself. That’s some basement! At its longest, the cave is about 230 meters. At its widest, it is more than 100 meters. Its average height is that of a four-story building.
Dad, Krista and I walked through the caverns (Mom stayed at the top and guarded the entrance from any stray Babylonians). It was a fairly easy stroll down and not difficult to climb back up. In many places, the marks of ancient quarrying is clear even to the novice. Much of the stone removed from the cave was Melekeh stone, a soft white limestone that becomes very hard when exposed to the sun and air.
After we emerged from the dark, cool and humid cavern back into the warm sun, we entered the Old City by the Damascus Gate. What a change! In the quiet cave we were the only people. Entering the Muslim Quarter of the Old City was wall-to-wall people, loud recorded music and non-stop calls from shopkeepers. We slowly made our way through the narrow, busy bazaar. Eventually we reached a quieter, more open bazaar where Krista spotted a store selling leather sandals. The shopkeeper found her a pair she liked … and the bargaining began! My sister is not shy and soon she was walking away with her new shoes for her price.
We finally reached the Jaffa Gate and took another cab home. We’re enjoying a well-deserved rest, building up our reserves for tomorrow when we go to Tel Aviv for a special ceremony at an air base. Memorial Day begins tomorrow evening, followed by more ceremonies on Independence Day, so we may not have a chance to write again for a couple of days.
Shalom from Jerusalem!
Here are some more pictures Krista, Dad and I took (click for bigger):
Views from Mount Zion
At the Garden Tomb
Zedekiah’s Cave
Entering the Old City by the Damascus Gate
Krista Buys Shoes
A Bead Shop
A Bread Seller
A Spice Shop
A Door Handle in the Old City

Israel #4 – Remembering 1948
April 20, 2010

Shalom! The last two days have been an incredible experience. Although we had been informed of some of the events we’d be attending, we really didn’t understand or expect the outpouring of enthusiasm and warmth we’d receive from Israel and her people.

Last year, an officer from the 100th Squadron of the Israeli Air Force contacted Dad to honour Uncle George, who was a member of this squadron in 1948 and who was killed before he even reached Israel. Dov (all names changed) invited Dad to visit Israel and to participate in some of Israel’s Memorial Day activities.

Dov met us at the airport and two days ago spent several hours with us at Mini-Israel about half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It was a wonderful time to get to know Dov a little better. Mini-Israel is a family-oriented tourist site that showcases scale models of various parts of Israel. Dov led us around the outdoor displays and gave us his insight and knowledge of his country.

Afterward, we followed Dov in our rental car as he drove to the Sde Dov Air Base on the northern edge of Tel Aviv, where the 100th Squadron is based. Also called the Flying Camel Squadron, it is Israel’s original air force squadron. Uncle George was their third member to be killed in active service. They honour his memory every year.

On our arrival, Dov escorted us to a meeting room where we sat around a table with about 10 or 12 other members of the squadron and a reporter from one of the major Israeli newspapers. Then the questions started. Dad was interviewed for both the newspaper and squadron publications. A number of the questions centred around why George chose to fight for Israel. Dad repeatedly explained that our family has long believed that Israel is the apple of God’s eye and He has never taken His hand from them. He talked about the Biblical prophecies that foretold Israel becoming a nation again and the people returning to the Land from every corner of the world. He described how George’s understanding of these teachings motivated him to put his life on the line in order to help see this be accomplished.

At first, the reaction visible on the faces of these young people was a blankness. Then, as they continued to ask similar questions and got the same answer, I began to see them trying to come to grips with Dad’s Biblical answers. They struggled to understand, but it was clear that they’d never before personally encountered the kind of faith we expressed.

After the interview session, they showed us out to the airfield and took many more photos of us. For security reasons, the officers were photographed only from the back. They also pointed out high security planes and described in general terms some of their activities. They even invited us to step on board one of their intelligence gathering planes and explained some of the equipment — all of which went over our heads, of course.

Afterward, we went back to the meeting room and learned more about the operations of the 100th Squadron. Then came a relaxing time in the Squadron Lounge, informally chatting with Dov and Shimon, the young officer assigned to escort us for a couple of days. We called Shimon our babysitter!

Soon it was evening and the beginning of Israel Memorial Day, a time to remember all the fallen members of the Israel Defense Forces and those who have been killed in terrorist attacks. On every Memorial Day evening, there is a special service at each of the armed forces bases. Bereaved families — families of the members of those bases who have been killed — are invited to attend. At this outdoor service, we were told there were about 2000 people present. We sat in the front row with Dov on one side and Shimon on the other where they could translate for us.

The service included a variety of musical presentations, prayers and the reading of the names of all those from this squadron who have fallen in battle — including Uncle George. It was very moving. Afterward, we headed home to Jerusalem — an adventure in itself since we had just picked up our rental car that morning and barely had a sense of direction yet. But we’ll talk about driving in Israel another day.

The next morning, Shimon picked us up in a base car and took us to Har Tayyasim or Pilots’ Mountain. This memorial site is on a mountain top outside of Jerusalem and is where a plane crashed in the 1948 war. The original motor of that plane is part of the memorial in the park. At this location each year, the Air Force holds their main memorial service.

It was blazingly hot in the sun, but very pleasant in the shade of the pine trees planted all over the mountain. There was a great deal of security and another couple of thousand people in attendance. This was the occasion at which Dad was to lay a wreath on behalf of all the bereaved families. Before and after the service, he was interviewed again a couple of times and introduced to many people, such as retired air force commanders and the Canadian attaché.

The response to our presence was constantly open and friendly. People thanked us over and over for coming and continuing to be interested in Israel. Again and again we answered that it was because of our love of the God of Israel that we love the people of Israel. And then we’d see that confused look come over their faces. It was as if we had suddenly started using words they just didn’t understand.

Shimon took us back to Jerusalem later that afternoon and with sunset, Memorial Day ended and Independence Day began.

Each year, on the evening Independence Day begins, a large celebration is held in Jerusalem on Mount Herzl. Dov had been able to get tickets for us. We really didn’t know what it would be like except that it would end with fireworks.

We arrived in good time and found excellent seats in the outdoor, temporary stadium. As we waited for the presentation to begin, several American-born Israelis sat in front of us. Krista jokingly asked them if they would like to translate the program for us — remember she’s not shy. As we chatted with them, one told us how excited they were to be there because the tickets, although free, are very, very hard to get — you have to know someone. In fact, one of the women has lived in Israel for 30 years and this is the first time she was able to come. Then the other woman said to me, “So how did YOU get tickets?!”

I took a deep breath and started to give her an abbreviated version of the reason for our visit to Israel. I had hardly uttered two sentences when she started to excitedly exclaim that she had read all about us in the newspaper that morning. She was so excited, I though she might climb right over her seat and sit down next to me! We had a lovely time sharing with these people — who again expressed great appreciation for what Uncle George had done and for us coming to Israel on this trip.

We really enjoyed the program that followed — marching soldiers and cadets, musical presentations, prayers and readings — and, yes, fireworks. It was a wonderful end to two wonderful days.

We have been overwhelmed by the welcome we’ve received from Israelis — young airmen, officers, retired service people, even just people on the street. We really didn’t expect this. And, we’re the first to say that WE don’t deserve it! We’re here because of something Uncle George was willing to do more than 60 years ago. We’re here because we still believe that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people.

One thought has come back to me a number of times during the last two days. I’ve been amazed at the commitment the people of Israel have to remember their fallen sons and daughters. Young and old are involved in the services and programs. As I’ve sat through these memorial services, Zechariah’s prophecy (12:10) has come to mind over and over.

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

Israel mourned yesterday for her fallen children. But a day will come soon when Israel will mourn for Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah — and then they will turn to Him!

Here are some more photos Krista and I took in the last couple of days (click for bigger):

A list of the fallen from Squadron 100 at Sde Dov Airbase
Uncle George’s name is third from the top
At Pilots’ Mountain
Dad is toward the back, laying the wreath
Dad meets the Canadian Military Attaché
Dad chats with a retired IAF officer
Another interview
The Independence Day Celebration at Mount Herzel

Israel #5 – Herod’s Fortress & Nahum’s Chariots
April 22, 2010

Shalom!

We felt it was time we took things a little easier! On Independence Day, we just stayed at home and rested. The biggest activity was to run out onto the balcony every time we heard jets and helicopters fly overhead. Through the morning this happened quite often. We saw five huge helicopters fly in formation right above us — they make a lot of noise. There were also groups of jets and bombers or jets alone. We think this was a special activity for Independence Day. It was great fun to watch.

Early Wednesday morning, we packed a lunch and headed down toward the Dead Sea. Our ears popped often as we left Jerusalem behind and drove through the dry, dusty hills of the Judean Wilderness. Finally, we reached the Jordan Valley and headed south along the western edge of the Dead Sea. Passing date palm groves, we rolled up and down the hills that run toward the Sea. Hardly a blade of grass is visible. At one small intersection, we saw a mother Ibex with two young kids crossing the road. They don’t seem very nervous around people and vehicles.

Finally, Masada came into view. This stupendous mountain of rock, dust and ruins is quite overwhelming as you drive up the road. We had come early in the day hoping we’d avoid the worst of the heat and crowds. We took the first available cable car to the top and began to wander about. I was the only one to have visited the top of Masada before, so I had fun showing the others around. My previous visits, however, had been confined to the northern end and main level of Masada. Today, I walked down to the lower levels of Herod’s palace with Dad and Krista — 180 steps down and 180 steps up — all fastened precariously to the face of the cliff! But it was excellent to see where banquets would have been held and to gain a new perspective of the amazing construction of the palace.

Mom did have trouble getting around on her gimpy knee so, after viewing the essentials of Herod’s palace, she and Dad waited in a shaded area while Krista and I wandered down to the southern end of the mountain. One interesting spot we saw was the ruined Byzantine church located near the middle of the plateau. Bits of the mosaics are still visible on the floor. Just as we stepped away from the church, we were startled by the sudden sound of a horn — a saxophone! A member of a small Asian tour group had brought his sax up the mountain and began to play “How Great Thou Art.” The sounds of praise just floated out over the ruins and rocks.

Soon it was time for us to head down the mountain again. At the bottom we purchased huge glasses of cold, freshly squeezed orange juice. How good it tasted!

After our picnic lunch, we headed back up the road to Ein Gedi. Dad, Krista and I hiked up the wadi to the lower waterfall. It’s no Niagara, but how welcome it must have been to those who needed water in the wilderness. This is the area where David and his men hid out from Saul for some time.

Our last stop was Qumran. Again, Mom and Dad waited in the shade and strong breezes while Krista and I strolled around the small ruined village. After watching the film in the visitor centre, it was easier to identify the various buildings they’ve excavated here. Qumran, of course, is believed to be the village of the Essenes and the Essenes probably wrote and hid the scrolls known today as the Dead Sea Scrolls. A couple of the caves that held the scrolls safely for 2000 years were clearly visible from the village.

Finally, we turned toward Jerusalem and home. Instead of driving toward the northwest entrance of the city (from which we had descended that morning), we tried a road that entered more from the northeast — saving us a bit of time, we hoped. Soon, though, we lost our way and ended up using Dad’s favourite method of navigating — drive until you see something you recognize. It worked!

Everyone warned us about driving in Israel. The general consensus was that we shouldn’t do it. Well, we are doing it. We’re not having too much trouble, but have realized there are different rules for the road here. Based on our experiences with cab drivers and on the roads ourselves, these are the rules we believe are in effect in Israel:

1. You can’t drive the wrong way into a one-way street but, if you back up the wrong way into a one-way street, it’s ok.

2. You must drive very fast along narrow roads with only inches to spare between the parked cars on one side and the stone wall on the other.

3. The traffic lights here in Jerusalem are different. There is a yellow light that precedes the green light. We’ve concluded that this is to allow the driver behind you advance notice for when he should start honking his horn at you — a split second before the light actually turns green.

4. If the car in front of you hesitates because they’re looking at the map, honk.

5. If the car in front of you is signalling a left turn into a driveway, but hesitates because of an oncoming bus, honk.

6. If the car in front of you hesitates because they’re looking in vain for a street sign, honk.

7. Keeping to your own lane is optional.

8. If you’re sitting in traffic and are bored, honk.

9. If you are driving a motorbike, you must weave your way among the cars, down the white line or along the shoulder. The other day, we mentioned to Shimon that this was very illegal in Canada. He laughed and said it was here, too.

10. If the car in front of you is the police, but you think they’re not moving fast enough, honk!

This verse is slightly out of context, but will illustrate the city streets for you:

“The chariots race madly in the streets, They rush wildly in the squares, Their appearance is like torches, They dash to and fro like lightning flashes” (Nahum 2:4).

As the family navigator, I find the signage in Israel the biggest challenge. Although there are good major signs showing you the route to take to places like Tel Aviv or the Dead Sea, the local street signs are so small, they’re illegible. Or they’re missing altogether. My frequent cries are, “Can anyone read that sign?!” or “Can anyone SEE a street sign?!”

Nevertheless, we are motoring along quite well!

Shalom, shalom.

Here are some of the other photos Krista and I took in the last couple of days (click for bigger):

Independence Day
Our street was very quiet.
The Dead Sea Region
Groves of Fig Palms
Why did the ibex cross the road?
To get to the other side!
Mom leaves the gondola car and heads to the top of Masada.
The Dead Sea below Masada.
The Snake Trail down Masada.
Ein Gedi
Many caves line the stream.
A baby Rock Hyrax
Qumran Caves

Israel #6 – Sleeping on the Beach
April 23, 2010

Shalom! Yesterday morning, we visited the Israel Museum here in Jerusalem. I was disappointed that the current renovations there won’t be completed until later this summer. This meant we could only view the outdoor model of ancient Jerusalem and the Shrine of the Book. But these two things ARE worth seeing.

I first saw the model of Jerusalem in 1998 when it was still located on a small hotel property on a hill outside Jerusalem. I was amazed at the detail and accuracy of the construction. It was originally built on the grounds of the Holyland Hotel – at that time about as close as Jewish people could get to the Old City of Jerusalem. It depicts the city of Jerusalem just prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. When I was last here in 2008, I was shocked and delighted to find that the entire model had been moved and rebuilt on the grounds of the Israel Museum.

The 1:50 scale model measures about 2000 square meters. It is remarkably accurate and helps one put into perspective the placement of various Jerusalem locations as they are mentioned in scripture.

We also visited the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. This was a wonderful follow-up to our visit to Qumran the day before. (Actually, it was good to be able to go inside; this morning we’ve had several heavy rain storms.)

In the afternoon, we headed to the Mount Zion area again, this time to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Mom, Dad and I came to this church on our first visits to Israel in 1975 and 1974 respectively. The church is a traditional site of Caiaphas’ House and is said to be built over the dungeon-like cave where Yeshua (Jesus) may have been held the night He was betrayed. This spot would therefore also be the location of Peter’s denials of Yeshua.

We toured the basement levels of the church where the dungeons (or perhaps cisterns) are located. They are certainly gloomy and would have been cold and damp that Passover night. However, the outside the church is beautifully terraced and landscaped and has a great view of the Temple Mount area of the Old City and of the Mount of Olives. But the most meaningful area includes the Roman-built steps that rise from the valley below and lead toward the Temple Mount. These may have been the very steps Yeshua walked as they led Him to Caiaphas. Krista was very moved by this location. She said, “I was brought to tears by the thought that Jesus actually walked those steps ahead of me. And that it’s all real!”

Today we went to Caesarea Maritima. This remarkable ruined city is located on the coast about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa — only a 1½ hour drive from our apartment. It was a hot, sunny day, but the cool breeze off the Mediterranean Sea was completely refreshing. It was even a bit cool in the shade when we had our lunch on a patio overlooking the harbour.

Caesarea is one of the best archaeological sites to visit in Israel. I had been there before with a tour group, but only to the Roman theatre. Today, we wandered about the ruins, trotted down the hippodrome and moseyed along the promenade to our hearts’ content.

The tremendous city of Caesarea was built by Herod the Great. He named it after Augustus Caesar. It took 12 years to build, but was considered one of the great cities of the day. It was a more Roman or Hellenistic city than Jewish and saw some terrible things in later years (massacres, etc.). But it also saw some tremendously exciting things. For example, it was in Caesarea that Gentiles first came to faith in Yeshua.

“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:1).

You remember the story … the Lord speaks to both Cornelius and Peter, bringing them together in Caesarea. Peter shares the Good News with them and Cornelius’ entire household comes to faith.

As we enjoyed our lunch by the ancient harbour, we also remembered that it was from this very location that Paul was sent to Rome to be tried before Caesar.

So much history! Mom was overwhelmed by the size of Caesarea and her buildings. She said, “You could never visualize the size of the ruins from a picture or by someone telling you about it. It is so vast!”

Afterward, we drove a short distance away (a couple of kilometers) and parked at the aqueduct. This incredible piece of engineering supplied Caesarea with water, delivering it all the way from Mount Carmel. By the time we reached this point we were tired and hot, but Krista wanted most of all to dip her feet in the Mediterranean. We purchased some ice cream on the beach and headed back to the car to eat it. After licking up the last delicious drops, Dad tried to start the car. Click. Click. Click.

He tried again. Click. Click. Click.

These cars all start by entering a four-digit code before turning on the key so, of course, we asked him if he was using the right numbers. He tried again. Click. Click. Click.

We all looked at each other in dismay. What would we do? Although the aqueduct is hardly in the wilderness, it isn’t in a heavily built-up area; there were no phones or people of authority about. Also, it was about 2:30 or 3:00 pm on a Friday — everything had started to close up for Shabbat. What would we do?!?

Dad got out of the car and started speaking with some local people. One thought our starter motor was shot. Another thought it was the battery. Dad thought it was the alternator. Finally, a lovely Russian-Israeli couple pulled their car up to ours and hauled out their booster cables. We left the cables attached for nearly 30 minutes before our engine would even turn over. At last the car started and we didn’t stop it again until we pulled into our parking spot at the apartment in Jerusalem.

There was some fierce praying going on that afternoon! While we were boosting the car, Dad also called our friend at the Air Force, Dov. He was able to connect with the car rental company, arrange for a repairman to come to our apartment that night (he ended up changing the battery) and get the car company to agree to give us a different car on Sunday. We were so grateful for his help! And we were so very grateful for the help of the couple who gave us a boost at the aqueduct.

Krista said they were angels. At the very least, they kept us from sleeping on the beach!

Shalom, shalom.

Here are some more pictures Krista and I took during the last two days (click for bigger):

The Israel Museum
Mom & Krista buy bread in the bakery located on the ground floor below our apartment.  They sold the most wonderful sunflower seed bread.
Views from the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu
The Roman steps at Gallicantu
Caesarea Maritima
The Roman Aquaduct near Caesarea
At the Aquaduct, Krista offered to take a photo of these ladies who were on a bus tour.  It turned out they were all from a church located a few minutes from where we live in Toronto.

Israel #7 – Stones and Stones and Stones
April 25, 2010

Shalom! Yesterday was Shabbat and the car rental place wasn’t open. (We weren’t able to exchange our defective car for another until today.) A little hesitant to take the current car on the road, even with the new battery, Dad, Krista and I headed for the Old City on foot.

Dad leads the way through the Muslim Quarter

Without stopping to take photographs, it would take us about 30 minutes to walk from our apartment to the Jaffa Gate. Taking it more slowly, we reached the gate in about 45 minutes. From there we wandered down the main souvenir thoroughfare — a narrow cobblestone foot lane crowded with tourists and hawkers with their goods hanging on every conceivable surface — to the Western Wall Plaza. We did actually get lost a bit, but kept facing downward and eventually made it to the Kotel.

Because it was Shabbat, we were not permitted to take photos in the Plaza itself (or write notes, use a cell phone or smoke, if we were so inclined!). But we were content to stand and marvel at the stonework of the Temple Mount. We’re looking forward to the Western Wall Tunnel Tour we’ll take in a couple of days and seeing more of this.

We also enjoyed watching the Orthodox and others pray and fellowship on this sunny Shabbat. We noticed many Orthodox families strolling together today. So many babies! It seems that the average Israeli we see — whether Orthodox or not — is not more than 40 years of age and most seem to be pushing baby strollers. I’ve lost count of the newborns we’ve admired. Also, our sense is that the Orthodox here are much more open to converse with strangers than they are at home.

After a while we turned our steps upward and began to climb back toward the Jaffa Gate, this time walking through the Jewish Quarter. I used my map book to take us through some back alleys and we saw many interesting doors and glimpsed quiet courtyards. We laughed when we found a group of very short doors. Krista and I are both tall (due to all those Dutch and Swedish genes rushing around our DNA) and we’ve noticed that, although there are a good number of taller Israeli men, we always tower over the Israeli women. I keep quoting to Krista: “And there were giants in the land …” (Genesis 6:4).

As we moved out of the Jewish Quarter toward the Armenian Quarter, we stopped to admire a particularly narrow walkway. Next door, a man happened to be closing up his shop. He greeted us with a smile and, of course, that was all Dad and Krista needed to start a new friendship. Sammy is a Syrian Christian who was born and raised in the Old City. He expressed a real faith and hope in the Messiah and we had a wonderful time fellowshipping with him. He welcomed us into his shop, showed us photos of his family and friends and, when we left, we truly felt we’d made a new friend.

After leaving the Old City, we considered taking a cab home, but decided to walk down the valley through the artists’ colony of Yemin Moshe. The day was beautiful (though warm), the birds were singing and the flowers were blooming. It was strenuous, but we had a great time exploring.

Today was our day for the Mystery Tour. Some months ago, I came across a website that suggested simple but less common day trips in and around Jerusalem. I chose one and was able to keep our destination a secret from the others. I just told them it was a small site with a big story. We started out (in our replacement rental car) by driving through the hills of Judea, heading southwest out of Jerusalem.

We constantly marvel at the forested hills in the region. When we were here in the 1970’s, there was scarcely a mature tree to be seen. I remember going home and telling everyone that all I saw were rocks. Today, much of this part of Israel is covered with mature trees — a great blessing!

After winding along the hillsides and through narrow valleys, we reached a wider valley with many different crops. Soon we came to a crossroads. We turned to the right and I asked Dad to park the car at the side of the road. We got out and began to walk along a field of bell peppers toward a dry stream bed. Mom, Dad and Krista had no idea where we were standing, but I began to read from 1 Samuel 17:“Then David took his shepherd’s staff, selected five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s pack, and with his sling in his hand approached Goliath.”

The dry stream bed

We were standing next to the stream that runs through the Valley of Elah. On one side of the valley the Israelites stood and faced the Philistines who were on the hillside of the opposite side. We can’t know exactly where David found his five smooth stones, but we were standing next to the probable stream where he looked. Of course, Krista and I looked for some stones of our own, but we had to walk a ways down the stream to find them. I think there have been some other tourists here before us!

So, we have had two fairly restful days and are now ready for more adventures!

Here are some other photos Krista and I took in the last couple of days(click for bigger):

Walking to the Old City of Jerusalem
 The Old City of Jerusalem on Shabbat


Busy souvenir area
Kippahs for sale

All dressed up for Shabbat
The Jewish Quarter
The Armenian Quarter


Returning to Our Apartment
 


 
Our Mystery Tour to the Valley of Elah
 
Reading the story of David & Goliath
These looked like Queen Anne’s Lace, but were as big as dinner plates!

Israel #8 – Dust and Stones of the Temple Mount
April 27, 2010

Shalom!

Yesterday was an adventure we were really looking forward to experiencing. Some time ago, as I looked for offbeat activities for us here in Jerusalem, I came across the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation. It’s an unusual opportunity to volunteer on an archaeological project and one that all of us, even Mom, could enjoy.

Arriving at the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Let me briefly summarize the project. The Temple Mount has never been archaeologically investigated. Unfortunately, many Muslims who use the Temple Mount today have expressed a desire to prove that Israel never even had a Temple there. They have not respected the history of the Mount.  A few years ago, they began to dig illegally on the Temple Mount. There, they have built a huge underground mosque. What did they do with the earth that had to be removed to make room for the mosque — earth that contained the residue of history? They took more than four hundred truckloads of dirt at night and dumped it in the nearby Kidron Valley. These loads of earth contained centuries and millennia of archaeological information! Israeli archaeologists caught wind of what was going on and began to salvage the piles of earth. They’ve formed the Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation and through this archaeologists and volunteers “sift” through the debris looking for bits and pieces of the ages.

Well in advance of our trip, I booked a two-hour sifting adventure for us. Yesterday was the day! We had a rather traumatic drive from our apartment to Emek Tsurim National Park outside the Old City walls where the sifting takes place. The map I had did not correspond to the real world. We couldn’t find the streets we needed and the streets we ended up taking were beyond belief. I shudder to think of that drive! But we made it!

We pulled into the unpaved parking lot of the Salvage Operation. The set up seems very rough — a few sheds, some huge piles of stones and rubble and a long open-sided tent lined with sifting trays. It turned out that we were the only volunteers to sift that morning, so we received some very personal attention from the staff.

Our two-hour session started with a 30-minute presentation by Yval, one of the staff members. He gave us an excellent overview of the history of the Temple Mount. We found that his timeline really helped us put the history in order.

Krista rinses out a bucket of rubble into a sifting tray.

Then we started to sift! We started with about six inches of rubble in the bottom of a standard garden bucket. It had been covered in water overnight. We dumped the bucket’s contents onto the sifting screen — something like a horizontal window screen — and began to hose off the dirt. Who knew what we might find! Some have discovered coins or bits of jewelry. Others have found mosaic tiles or arrow heads. Then again, I read of one man who found a child’s toy car!

Yval had shown us the categories of the typical things we might find and, working in pairs, we started feeling our way through the pebbles and assorted bits of unidentified items. I was surprised at the size of the pebbles we had to look through — many the size of peas. It was almost impossible to tell the difference between natural stone pebbles and pieces of mosaic carved by man. We were able to identify many bits of pottery — they were the easiest even though many pieces were half the size of my smallest fingernail. After Krista and I thought we’d gone through our bucket of dirt, Yval checked our screen. How embarrassing! He found at least twice as much as we’d found and discarded half of what we’d set aside as possible artifacts.

Our spirits weren’t dampened. We just took another bucket and started again. This time we did better. Ultimately, among all the unnamed bits we found, we did come up with some specific things. Krista found a large piece of pottery that would have been part of a jar handle. She also found a piece of blue glass that might have been the eye of a statue and a piece of burnt bone that might have been from a Temple sacrifice or from the burning of the Temple or just from some crusader‘s dinner. Dad found a square bit of rusted metal. Mom found another large piece of a pottery jar. I found a fragment of Herodian painted plaster. It was very exciting as you’ll see from the photos below.

The Temple Mount Antiquities Salvage Operation has taken as their theme verse Psalm 102:15: “For Your servants have cherished her stones and favoured her dust.”

Yes, we were very dusty when we left Emek Tsurim, but this was a very good day!

Hot and tired on the Old City Walls.

During the afternoon, Krista and I headed to the Old City again and climbed up on the walls for a walk along the ramparts. We didn’t go too far — it is a very difficult walk over uneven stones and many steps of odd heights and depths and is quite challenging when you’re also fighting heat and fatigue. But it was great fun. The views consist primarily of the walls and roofs of buildings just inside the walls. We saw cats, trash, sad bits of potted plants, lots of satellite dishes and laundry.

Today our primary goal was to take the Western Wall Tunnel Tour. We had tickets of the 11:50 am tour, so we used the morning to visit the nearby Jerusalem Archaeological Park, located outside the southern end of the Temple Mount. These beautifully presented ruins include the original southern steps of Herod’s Temple — steps Yeshua and His disciples probably used a number of times. This spot was very moving for me on a previous visit and it was moving again. It was easy to imagine the people who must have walked these steps two thousand years ago.

As the morning ended, we reported to the entrance for Tunnel Tour. With a group of about 30 people, a young docent led us along the immense (immense!) stones of the Temple Mount that are now hidden underground. It was not an easy walk for Mom, but she persevered and made her way to the end! This tour is very impressive and we highly recommend it!

Could you eat that big swarma?

Afterward, Mom and Dad took a cab home. Krista and I returned to the Jewish Quarter and bought some shwarma for lunch. These two wraps containing lamb, grilled vegetables, hummus and fresh vegetables were so gigantic neither of us could finish it. Then we headed to the Wohl Archaeological Museum where we viewed the remains of Herodian homes and the burned ruins of a priest’s home — places that were destroyed by the Romans following the destruction of the Temple. Both were fascinating.

At last, we started to head up through the Old City and soon found ourselves on the same lane we’d walked with Dad a few days before. We even passed by Sammy’s shop again. He called out to us to visit, but we were worn out and, thanking him for the invitation, explained we had to keep going if we were going to make it home.

This was an exhausting for all of us, but a day rich in history. Of course, you can’t escape history in Israel!

Here are a few more pictures Krista and I took in the last couple of days (click for bigger):

The Temple Mount Sifting Project
The mound of rubble beyond the fence is some of the salvaged “dust.”
Here’s our new rental car!
Inside the sifting tent.  There are buckets of soaking rubble on the floor
and sifting stations along the outside walls.
Yval did a great job teaching us about Temple Mount history.
Buckets of rubble waiting to be sifted.
Krista dumps a bucket of rubble into our sifting tray.
Where to start?!
Mom and Dad sifting.  In the background, Yval is showing me how much I didn’t discover!
Mom and Dad carefully go over their bits and pieces.
How discouraging to see Yval quickly go through my rubble, finding everythgin I missed!
As we sifted, all our discoveries we sorted in these little cups.
Krista and her discoveries …
… which included a bit of burnt bone, a blue “eye” (which Yval put into a plastic bag)
and part of ceramic jar’s handle.
Mom’s main discovery was a ceramic handle.
Does she look happy?!
Dad shows off his discovery.
Dad found a bit of metal.
Yval was interested enough in this to put it in a plastic bag.
I finally found something interesting!
The piece of painted herodian plaster.
What wall in the Temple complex did it come from?
The central buckets where all the sorted bits are collected.
 
Yval displayed our special finds on this plate.
 Old City Walk
HaAtzmaut (Independence Park),
located between our apartment and the Old City.
Buskers at the Jaffa Gate.
Views from the Old City Ramparts – some looking outward (as here)
and others looking inward.
 Archaeological Park Next to the Temple Mount

The original southern steps into Herod’s Temple.
Looking toward the Mount of Olives from the Southern Steps.

The Western Wall – The Kotel


 

The Western Wall Tunnels

The Herodian Quarter Museum

Israel #9 – North to Galilee
April 29, 2010

Shalom from Israel!

Yesterday was a rest day for Mom and me, but Dad and Krista spent a few hours together at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial and Museum. We had all visited this heartbreaking place on our last trip to Israel, but Dad and Krista wanted to spend more time there.

Krista said, “Once again it was still a very sad place to go, but it was good to keep remembering that those events really happened. We should never forget. I hope and pray that it never happens again.”

Dad commented, “It left me with a very heavy heart. I felt that I couldn’t breathe properly. I think going to the memorial helps us understand in a small way the reason the Jewish people never want to forget such horrible events.”

We were glad to see Dad and Krista return home and still be talking to each other! Given their unconventional and erratic navigational skills and the challenges of driving in Jerusalem, we weren’t sure they’d make it to Yad Vashem and back in one piece.

Today, we packed overnight bags and headed to the Galilee for two nights. We drove east through the stark Judean Wilderness, gawking at small flocks of sheep, Bedouin tents and barren, barren hills. At the bottom of the hills in the Jordan Valley (below sea level), we headed north, skirting Jericho and driving by occasional date palm groves and other crops. Most of the land, however, was uncultivated.

Near the top of the Jordan Valley, we reached an Israeli security checkpoint. They took our passports for scrutiny before asking us to pull into an examination area. We had to empty the car entirely and put the luggage and ourselves through the kind of security process you find in airports. They even swabbed our passports, looking for explosives. As you can imagine, they found nothing suspicious and soon sent us on our way with smiles and thanks and our passports. We understood that this process is due to the precarious nature of security in Israel and didn’t mind the delay at all.

Very soon after, we made our first sightseeing stop at Beit She’an National Park. This spectacular collection of ruins was the location of the Philistine city that displayed the bodies of King Saul and his sons on the walls. We visited the amazing Roman theatre that dates from about the second century. It originally had space for about 5,000 in three tiers of seats rising to a height of about 30 meters. We also saw an extensive public bath facility and a wonderful Roman road lined with pillars. The mosaic floors were still visible and really impressed Mom; the reds and blues were amazing. The adjacent hill is actually a tel or stack of ruined cities built one on top of another. We read that the archaeologists have found 20 different levels. It’s hard to believe!

A few miles north of Beit She’an, we turned off to visit Belvoir National Park. This extraordinary Crusader fortress is situated on the top of a mountain. To reach it we drove a six-kilometer one-lane road consisting primarily of switchbacks and gorgeous views. Mom considered it a “white-knuckle drive.“ She and Krista said that, although Dad may have believed he was driving at only 35 miles an hour, from their perspective in the back seat he was doing 65!

At the top of the hill, we were astounded to find such a massive structure, surrounded by a dry moat and with much of the walls still standing. On a clear day, you can see just about forever here — thus the name Belvoir or Beautiful View (in French). It is hard to imagine the crusaders struggling up the hill in their armour and on their horses.

Dad was impressed by two fairly wide rooms that were covered by an arched ceiling. He said, “If I had built just one wall, I would have felt it was a magnificent accomplishment, but they built a whole fortress and defensive position. It leaves you with a spirit of wonderment at what was accomplished so long ago. It also provides a deep respect for the knowledge and wisdom possessed by earlier cultures — whether Crusader or Roman or Jewish or some other group.”

After driving back down the hill, we headed a short distance further to the south end of the Sea of Galilee. About six or eight kilometers up a very scary, winding road, we reached Hamat Gader, a spa built over some hot springs. We paid our fee and strolled into the facility with a good number of other people. Like many hot springs, there was a sulphurous smell to the air, but easing into the large pool was, oh, so delightful. We spent about an hour in and out of the 31C water. Then we dragged ourselves slowly back to the car. The hot water was wonderful, but completely enervating.

At last, we turned the car toward the Messianic guest house where we had reservations for the next two nights. Beit Bracha is a beautiful, beautiful facility in Migdal, a hillside village overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We checked in, had supper with the staff and some of the guests and relaxed on the balcony overlooking the Sea, caressed by gentle breezes and contemplating the history that lay within view.

It was a very good day!

Israel #10 – Capernaum and Beyond!
May 1, 2010

Shalom!

After a wonderful night’s sleep at Beit Bracha, we shared breakfast with the staff and guests. The staff is made up of volunteers from the US and New Zealand (at least the ones we met). The guests were all European — British, Finnish, Dutch and Danish. It was wonderful fellowship throughout our visit.

We spent the rest of the day visiting various sites around the Sea of Galilee. Our first stop was Tabgha, an ancient church location on the shore of the Sea where, according tradition, Yeshua multiplied the loaves and fishes. Next we headed to Capernaum. These attractive ruins include a synagogue built shortly after the time of Yeshua, but on the foundation of the synagogue that existed during His ministry. You’ll remember that He taught there and stayed in Capernaum often.

Following Capernaum and carefully exiting the narrow lane between busses and tourists, we headed further up the hills surrounding the Sea to Korazin. These two towns, with nearby Bethsaida, were spoken of by Yeshua when they rejected His teaching.

“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me” (Luke 10:13-16).

All three of these villages are completely ruined and abandoned. A good lesson to all of us!

On this trip, we’ve mostly looked after our own meals in our apartment, only eating out a handful of times. While we travel here in the Galilee, we’re eating at Beit Bracha or, as on this occasion, out! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant we found at the top of the hills around Galilee. It was nearly empty and seemed to be Arab owned. They had little English but were very polite and eager to please us. As we browsed through their menu (written in Hebrew, Arabic and English), our waiter asked if we’d like one salad. That sounded great to us, but we were alarmed when he brought about 10 or 12 dishes to the table. They were side plates that held a seemingly infinite variety of mystery foods — plus one plate of French fries. And he brought a basket of huge, just cooked on the fire, pitas. We determined that we would try everything! By the way, Mom has become a hummus connoisseur. She can’t get enough!

We also ordered one dinner of Peter’s Fish (Tilapia) which arrived head, tail and everything between. Dad loved it. As well, we ordered one dinner of lamb shishlik — what we would call shish kabob. It was divine!

We weren’t sure what this was all going to cost, but we enjoyed every morsel and were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable price.

By afternoon, Mom was feeling very tired and would have been happy to head back to Beit Bracha. But, Krista and I talked her into visiting Agmon Lake-Hula Valley, a wildlife area. This visit turned out to be a highlight of Mom’s entire visit to Israel.

However, as we drove up to the reserve, our second rental car began making some ominous noises. Not again! After driving a bit further, we began to think it was a brake problem. We’re not having luck with cars! But we carried on.

The wildlife reserve at Agmon Lake has a paved trail that makes an 11-kilometer loop around the waterways. At the main gate, visitors can rent bicycles, pedal cars or electric golf carts to travel the loop and view the birds and other wildlife. We chose a golf cart and were soon quietly gliding through the valley.

We saw many birds, including storks, kingfishers, starlings, ravens, and others. We also saw a mother water buffalo with her calf and many coypu (something like an otter). We highly recommend this experience.

Shabbat began that evening and we had a wonderful dinner with the staff and guests at Beit Bracha. We ended the evening again on the patio, watching the sun set over the Sea of Galilee. As it grew darker, lights of the various villages along the shore and on the hilltops grew brighter. It reminded us of Yeshua’s words:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

This morning we packed up and, after another breakfast/fellowship time, we reluctantly left the Galilee and began driving south again, brakes grinding all the way! Unfortunately, we’ve realized we will have to return this car — especially since we expect to be doing a great deal of driving with Dov again this week.

But – noisy brakes and all — it was a great two days away.

Israel #11 – The Memorial Service
May 3, 2010

Shalom from Israel!

Our first task yesterday was to return our defective rental car and request a replacement. The rental company was very cooperative and, without batting an eyelash, turned over the keys to a nicer, slightly larger car. Wonderful!

Krista and I left Dad with the new car and we began walking across the Old City from the Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate. One of Krista’s goals was to visit the grave of Oskar Schindler (of Schindler’s List). He lies in a Catholic cemetery a short walk from the Zion Gate. We found it without too much trouble, paying our respects to this hero of Israel.

We soon returned to the Old City and hung around the Jewish Quarter for a while, watching the tourists and locals and enjoying the warm sunshine on this cool day. All in all, a quiet day.

However … today has been a whirlwind! We can hardly take in all that has happened.

Early this morning, we drove in our lovely new rental car to a spot halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where we met Dov. Krista joined him in his car and we followed closely behind, driving north about 1½ hours to an airbase in the Jezreel Valley.

Before entering the base itself, Dov stopped at a small hillside cemetery to show us Moshe Dayan’s grave. It is also where the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, is buried. This beautiful spot looks out over the Jezreel Valley.

Soon we headed to the nearby airbase and went through security gates. We were met by some young female soldiers assigned to guide us and keep us from taking photos of any classified items. We’ve been shown many classified things during our visit to the airbases, so we really haven’t taken many photos at these places.

After giving us a chance to relax for a few minutes with a cold drink and pastries, we headed into the briefing room and a young airman told us about the activities of this air base, the closest one to Israel‘s northern borders.

He also showed us an amazing film about an event in Poland a few years ago. The Polish people were celebrating the anniversary of the creation of their air force and invited representatives of air forces from around the world, including the Israel Air Force. The IAF took this opportunity to fly in formation over Auschwitz and proclaim that from the ashes of the concentration camps a strong nation has arisen. It was a remarkable and moving film.

Next we had the incredible opportunity to go outside and watch many F16s take off and land. The staff even took us up into the control tower. This was just amazing. Those manning the air traffic control on this base all looked about 19 years old — and most of them were. But they were managing all the flights in and out of this base. They were sitting and standing like 19-year-olds around the world — quite casually, entirely laid back. There was nothing military about them except their expertise and their uniforms. Actually, their supervisor was just a handful of years older than they were and he was dressed for the beach in a pink t-shirt, orange shorts, track shoes and sunglasses (he’d been called in last minute). It was the strangest thing to see! This young man asked one of the F16s to do a special take off for us. So, the pilot began down the runway, in a moment hit his speed, took off nearly vertically, banked and practically disappeared! Wow!

After a great lunch on the base in the officers’ dining room, Dov led our small convoy from the base to the Haifa Military Cemetery where Uncle George is buried.

I hardly know how to describe what followed.

When Dov originally corresponded with Dad in Canada regarding our visit to Israel, he offered to arrange a memorial service at Uncle George’s grave. He gave Dad the choice of having either a Christian or a Jewish service. Dad selected a Jewish service for two reasons. First, he wanted any Jewish person who attended to be able to identify with the service. Second, he wanted to bring glory to God through the Old Testament scriptures we’d have an opportunity to read and hear. Whether Christian or Jewish didn’t matter to us, because the God we worship is the God of Israel. In addition, this service was not a time of great sadness for us because we know that George was a believer in Messiah Yeshua, is present with Him now and his body will be resurrected to eternal life one day.

When we arrived at the cemetery we were amazed at the lush landscaping. Although we’ve visited the grave before, the first time was in the 1970’s when the landscaping was minimal and the second time was two years ago in August, the hottest and harshest time of year. Today, every grave was covered with small purple flowers and the fragrance met us as we entered. We were only in one corner of the cemetery, but the graves stretched out of view. Uncle George, of course, is buried in the oldest portion of the cemetery. Not far from his grave is the grave of Leonard Cohen, the pilot who died with him in the Norseman crash in 1948.

Not long after our arrival, others began to appear. As we think back, we come up with the following list: 10 servicemen, five officers from Uncle George’s squadron (the 100th), a senior armed services rabbi and a couple of photographers. But we were also tremendously honoured by the presence of His Excellency Jon Allen, Canada’s ambassador to Israel and the Canadian Military Attaché, Jordie Elms.

After a few of the servicemen set up the sound system, the service began. The rabbi started with prayers and readings (including Kaddish), the commander of the 100th Squadron spoke and Dov read the well-known poem, High Flight, by RCAF spitfire pilot John Magee who died in Britain during WW 2.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

After the service I thanked Dov for reading this poem — one I’ve always loved and that has always made me think of Uncle George. Dov answered, “Me, too!”

After Dov read the poem, the Ambassador spoke briefly and very kindly. Dad followed with comments regarding George‘s upbringing, quoting some words from a song that has become our family‘s theme song:

As you journey through life to the grave you pursue
There’s one thing in earnest I wish you to do
Oh, listen, my boy, while I say this to you:
Oh, cling to the Bible, my boy.

Dad also highlighted a number of scriptures in Genesis that referred to God’s love for and faithfulness to Israel. He ended by reading Psalm 118.

After Dad finished, I stepped forward and sang two favourite songs in Hebrew. In English they say:

Comfort my people
Comfort my people
Speak tender words to Jerusalem
This is what you shall say to them:
Your hard work
Has been done
Your atonement is won
You’re received from My hand
Twice for all you’ve done
Comfort my people
(Isaiah 40)

and

Establish peace, goodness, blessing, grace and mercy
Father, may You find it to be pleasing in Your eyes
To bless all of Your people Israel
Bless us with peace each moment and in ev’ry hour
May Your peace be with us in ev’ry hour

[I believe both songs were written by Steve McConnell.]

Krista said later that a number of the Jewish men listening looked us with amazement and tears in their eyes. It brought her to tears to think of how these words affected them. I’m just glad they could understand my Hebrew!

After a few moments of silence and contemplation, the service ended. The rabbi came right over to me and told me how deeply touched he was by the words of my songs. I thanked him and reminded him that the Word of God is powerful. The ambassador also told us how touched he was. Dad — all of us — had prayed often that, during this service, we would reveal Yeshua and bring glory to God. I think He answered our prayers. All these Jewish men were clearly moved and touched, some to tears — not by us, but by the scriptures we read and sang. Baruch HaShem! Praise His Name!

After everyone else had left, Dov and we stayed a bit longer and walked over to the grave of Leonard Cohen, the young pilot who died with Uncle George. It is sad to reflect on the loss of so many young lives.

One of the pleasant surprises of the day was receiving a personal invitation from the ambassador to attend a reception at his home this evening. The occasion of this event was the official unveiling of the new joint international rate commemorative stamp issued by Canada Post and Israel Post. It had become available on April 14, the day we left Canada. Dad was able to purchase several small books of these special stamps in Toronto and had presented one to Dov as a gift earlier in the week.

Israel #12 – A Last Day of Surprises
May 8, 2010

Shalom from Israel!
Yesterday was our last day with Dov and it was something to write home about!

We rose very early and met Dov at 7:30 am halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Krista joined him in his car again and they led us in our car to downtown Tel Aviv where the Israel Air Force Headquarters is located. Our goal … a personal meeting with the Major General of the IAF.

Again going through a series of security gates and doors, we arrived on the floor where the chief officers of the IAF have their offices. Our interview was delayed because the Major General was meeting first with a chief military officer of another government. So we drank the espresso the assistants offered and chatted with Dov and the commander of the 100th Squadron who was joining us.

After a short wait, it was our turn. We were ushered into the modest office and introduced to the Major General. We all sat in a circle and chatted about Uncle George and Israel. It was an informal meeting, but we were very honoured to have this opportunity to express our love for Israel to these men. As the meeting drew to a close, the Major General indicated that he had a gift for us. He pulled out a boxed Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament in Hebrew). It was beautifully bound in leather and impressed with the logo of the Israel Air Force. He had personally inscribed it to the Beurling family. Bibles like this are given to Israel Air Force pilots when they graduate. No one else has access to them. They all felt that, because of our professed love for the Hebrew scriptures, this was an appropriate gift for us.

Then the Major General pulled out a larger blue box. When he opened it we found that it contained a blue pillow with a number of insignias and medals pinned to it. These are the things Uncle George would have worn on his uniform if he had made it to Israel. Whew! We were blown away by this! Dad could hardly speak. Mom and I were moved to tears and Krista burst into tears!

Israel has done nothing but bless us on this trip. Dov’s efforts to make our visit memorable, pleasant and comfortable have gone beyond every expectation. We’ve been entertained and educated. We’ve been warmly greeted by every officer and enlisted soldier (or “warrior” as they call them here). We’ve been made to feel that we are part of the family of Israel and that we belong here.

In something of a daze, we left the Major General’s offices and followed Dov through Tel Aviv and on toward Be’er Sheva in the Northern Negev. Our destination was the Israel Air Force Museum and one last air base. As we headed toward the desert, the countryside became somewhat less lush, but continued to show us full cultivation — crops of hay/wheat, orchards, groves and many other evidences of fertile agricultural land.

The highway south was, like all main roads in Israel, spectacular. The highways are clean and smooth. The road system is excellent. Yes, in towns the roads tend to be narrow and confusing, but that’s to be expected when modern streets are imposed on ancient cities. All in all, we found the roads to be better than many of our roads in Canada where we struggle with frost and winter weather. We did find that street signs were nonexistent or inconsistent, but most road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic AND English. We got ourselves quite lost on a number of occasions, but always managed to find a way to our goal.

The Air Force Museum was delightful. Because our interview with the Major General had been delayed, we didn’t have as much time here as originally planned. I’ve never seen so many planes parked in one place! Our guide showed us spitfires such as Uncle George flew in the RAF during WW 2. She also showed us the ruin of a Norseman, the kind of plane he was killed in. But they have examples of every other plane Israel has used in their air force up to, but not including, those currently in use.

After the Museum, we drove a short distance away to another air base. This one was the most secure base we’ve visited; we left all our cameras in the trunk of the car. Our guide at this location was a 26-year-old man who flies F15s. He gave an audio-visual presentation that described the capability of the planes and their weaponry. He showed videotape of actual attacks — I would not want to be on the receiving end of such an experience. Next, he showed us his plane, complete with bombs and missiles. He described their procedures — in case of attack, they can be in the air within five minutes!

We commented on the differences between Spitfires and F15s. I was interested to see the envy on his face. He said that he and all his fellow pilots would much rather be flying Spitfires. I guess the smaller, older planes are more personal and responsive in ways that the souped up F15s cannot be.

After another lovely lunch in the officers’ dining room, we headed north again — Dov to Tel Aviv and we to Jerusalem. We hope to see Dov one more time at the Ben Gurion Airport when we leave Israel.

During our last few days in Jerusalem, we planned to stay pretty close to home, resting up and packing our suitcases. We made a last walk through the Old City, stopping at a sidewalk café for dessert and doing some serious people watching.

We also took an hour to visit Chosen People Ministries’ Jerusalem Messianic Center. Myer, the Assistant to the Director of the work in Israel, showed us around and listened to our stories.

As I write this, our bags are packed and waiting by the door. The noisy street outside our windows is quiet because it’s Shabbat. We continue to feel overwhelmed by the welcome we have received here in Israel — not just from Dov and the Israel Air Force, but from everyone we’ve met. Whether Jew or Arab, Orthodox or secular, every individual has greeted us with a smile. They’ve tried out their English on us. They’ve gone out of their way to help us. And everyone has said, “Welcome. Welcome to Israel!”

We’ve also been delighted by the many opportunities we’ve had to share our faith in Yeshua with a variety of people.

Before we left Canada, some people said, “Are you SURE you want to go to Israel now? Isn’t it dangerous?”

It’s true that Israel lives every day precariously because of her enemies. At Passover, I chatted with a Jewish acquaintance (who doesn’t yet know Yeshua) about this. In broken English and using her hands to demonstrate how Israel is surrounded, she said, “Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Jordan.” Then I brought my hand down over hers and said, “And God!” She smiled and nodded, “And God.”

We have felt completely safe during our trip. We’ve not felt at serious risk from pickpockets or other forms of robbery. Although the driving in Jerusalem, as we’ve described, is chaotic at best, our cars survived without any new scrapes or dents. And we’ve said from the beginning, if God calls us Home during this trip, what better place to leave from that the Land of Israel?

Shalom in Messiah Yeshua!

We were very honoured by this kind invitation and so pleased to be a part of this small historic occasion.

After this very long and emotional day, we were happy to turn our car toward Jerusalem and home. Tomorrow will be another long day!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s