Thoughts from Peter about Israel:
Week 1 registered relatively low on the actual biblical event meter. I noticed the special vibe of Israel and I don’t know how much of that is in between my ears, meaning based on impressions I already had from the “Christian perspective”. The main thing that fascinates me about this place (even before we arrived) is that NOW–in the present day–exists this piece of land (about the size of New Jersey) that to this day is a tangible gift from the Divine to a specific group of people. For all of the disobedience and fighting, forsaking and forgetting, this place is still His gift to His people and somehow this matters to us today, even as Gringos grafted into the True Vine. Just ask Paul: Romans 11 helps to show how we are connected to the Jews.
We did stay in Kesalon, (Samson’s hood) and made a few brief trips into J-town, but no real biblical action, unless drinking Maccabee Beer counts.
Until this week…
There are many “Holy sites” that more or less are improvable and based on tradition, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m trying to approach all this with a healthy attitude (i.e. conscienscious skepticism) and not as a dumb American tourist that believes it all without question. So, I want the real deal. And I think I got some this week.
Thankfully, the Sea of Galilee hasn’t been moved and so much Gospel action went down here that even if you aren’t standing at the exact location of the Jordan River that John baptized Jesus (“Yeshua” around here) there is this very weird sense that someone famous was just here and strangely enough will be back shortly. I’m not got to get all weird on you here; I just have to express some of my experience.
The weird thing about being here where it all happened is that the Gospel is no longer just a story. I mean, I knew that it was real, but there are levels of real. A priest here wrote a book called “Israel: The Fifth Gospel” and even without reading it I think I know what he means. He suggests that Israel itself helps tie the four stories together and unlocks much of its deeper meaning.
This isn’t the place to even start to address that now, so I’ll stop there and let my wife speak.
Also, be encouraged. At the Church of the Beatitudes there is a full bar outside, so you can contemplate the scripture over a tasty glass of whatever in the garden (just like Austin).
I’m not sure that I can add more to what Peter has so thoughtfully written. Israel, is all too normal a place for me. The Holy Sites typically bore me, and I find myself trying to look at it all with a fresh perspective. How to do that is challenging and I’m not certain that I’m doing it well. Peters curiosity is charming and perhaps catching. I find that hearing his thoughts help renew mine.
Things that Ive missed or forgotten about: two buttons on the toilet, for those times when you need a big flush or a little flush (and we all have those times). Fish served with its head still on, his frozen open eyes accusing you of his death. Pita bread so fresh it’s still warm when you take it home from the store. Dry, dry air. Poppies in the most ironic places. Not letting the water run when you brush your teeth (water is precious commodity here). Open air markets where they let you take a piece of fruit from their stand for free. Caffe afook – Upside down coffee.
We miss you all, and think of you during this Holy Week. May the resurrection be alive in your heart bringing wonder and hope.
peter and joy.