Technically, we’ve been here for more than a week, but the Congress ended Tuesday and we only really began seeing sights and visiting people in the last couple days. As with every visit, time passes too fast and traffic moves too slow…
Tuesday, after we left the Eshel Hashomron and the Congress behind, we took a quick trip to Shiloh to tour the site where the Tabernacle stood for 369 years. The movie they have on the wrap around screen was as cool this time as the last time Kelly and I saw it. This was the first visit for Joseph and Silas who are traveling with us.We had to rush through Shiloh, though the boys managed to fill a pocket with pottery shards from the millions of broken clay vessels at the sacred site. Once we pulled out, I realized that a small miscalculation would put us at Tzemach’s later than expected… I hoped he would welcome other occupants that beat us there and open the door for them. I should not have doubted, he is a most gracious host and brother.
We debated what to do first, settling on heading into the Old City on Wednesday. As we rode the train into the city center, I felt excitement rising. The speed walk downhill from Yaffo to the Jaffa Gate was interrupted only by a quick visit to the Bible Society where I found a Hebrew copy of Rabbi Itzhak Shapira’s Return of the Kosher Pig. Surprised at the find, I asked the price and was told it was free!! Now, I’m praying about who to pas it along to.
We passed through Narrow street and the many hawking vendors preying on tourists to get to the back gate into the Kotel and passed through security. I was immediately surprised at how empty it was compared to the last several times we have visited.
The Court of the Women was far more busy than the men’s side. We were able to walk straight to the Wall and pray with no wait or delay. After a meaningful time at the Wall we gathered in the upper area and decided on the spur of the moment to get in line for the Temple Mount, something not previously on our agenda.
Getting on was easier this time than last, though we stood in a line a while waiting for the gate to open. While waiting, I had a neat conversation with a Jewish ER doctor and his wife from Albany, NY. They were fascinated by our story and that we had made more trips to the Land in the last three years than they had in their lives. They were further surprised at our level of observance. A particularly interesting detail was them mentioning that their daughter had converted to Seventh Day Adventist. I expressed clearly that I still firmly believe in Yeshua as the Messiah, but observe the Torah of Moses. They saw the connection.
The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping and visiting old friends. Kelly and Udi at the Blue and White Shop have a special connection. We discovered why on this visit. Udi’s father was a veteran who suffered an arm amputation.
Our evening took a special turn as we heard through the grapevine that Rabbi Harry Rozenberg was coming to the Abraham Hostel to speak with a small group who wanted to hear more and connect with him. He showed up at about 7:15 with a jug of Tej, his Ethiopian honey mead and a stack of cups. Immediately he began serving everyone while asking and answering questions.
The discussion lasted for a couple hours and was quite spirited at points with a number of interesting topics covered. He is definitely a visionary who has a heart for the Lost Tribes. His solutions are quite different than those generally discussed in rabbinic circles. I believe he would lease land to Ephramites right now and put them to work building sustainable communities if he had funding.
We were quite late getting home Wednesday evening and gathering around the table for the first time with our many European friends was a tired blessing. They laughed at Debbie’s ‘Hungarian Goulash’ and so it was renamed ‘Texas Goulash.’ All agreed that it was delicious with the abundant preparation providing leftovers into the next day. Conversation did not last long as most headed to bed pretty quickly.
Thursday dawned too early but we collected ourselves to head for Masada and Ein Gedi. Kelly and I have been there before but left so much unseen on the previous trip. This time, with boys in tow, we spent several hours on top of the plateau taking in many details and wandering through the amazing 2000 year old site.
Our next stop was at Ein Gedi where we hiked to the upper falls and took many pictures and short video of the oasis in the desert. The water sounds and wildlife sights are so soothing to the soul. No wonder David found this a wonderful hideout.
We arrived home late in the afternoon and laid out a sandwich spread before the rest of our multinational gang got back from Jerusalem. Conversation through the evening was particularly fun as we worked to understand each other and how we can all work together for the restoration of Kol Israel.