Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017
The Fauzi Azar Inn was one of the most beautiful places we stayed in Israel, but the light and the noise (as it is a hostel) made it a struggle for Isaac and I to sleep. I don’t believe I have had a solid sleep yet, which has made getting better from my cold nearly impossible. I will admit that the bed was the softest we experienced in our travel to Israel. We have discovered that Jews tend to like harder mattresses and Arabs like softer ones. At least by the end of our trip that is what we deducted.
Isaac and I got up early (due to not sleeping) and went into the common room next to the kitchen to take some pictures and sit for a little bit. We enjoyed watching the sun come up over Nazareth and pour into this stately room. The history and the open air design of this ancient Arab mansion is stunning. The bold black trim. The tile floors. The colorful fabrics and tall painted ceilings. The inviting courtyards which boasted colorful couches and places to gather to sit and talk. The plants, flowers and birds playing in the waterfall. The blue sky. The arched windows without glass. The stone steps and walls. I loved it. It was soothing for the soul. And most of all, I love the weather that allows this kind of architecture and lifestyle. Too bad most of the women were covered up. I have no idea how they can stand to be covered up in all this heat.
This is definitely not North Idaho with it’s 9 months of winter, grey and cold!
One thing I could’ve lived without: hearing the Muslim call to prayer blasting over the loudspeakers all over town. But actually, I paid little attention to it because I was enamored with the building we were in and then with getting my family safely from point A to point B. But when I stopped to pay attention for a moment I thought, “Heavens! Nazareth is definitely an Islamic village.” I know there are a lot of Arab Christians (20%, I’m told), but I’m still not sure what to think about all the Muslims (80%, I’m told) here. Being here reminds me of the Scriptures where it is recorded that the people questioned Yahshua’s character because he grew up here in Nazareth. They lamented, “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” I understand now. Yes, perhaps it was like this when he grew up here. Nazareth is definitely a city full of evil. Maybe he grew up under this same thick cloud of pure rebellion and alignment with his Father’s enemy. Maybe it was a little less crowded; no vehicles and no billboards with pretty girls selling products with sex, but perhaps still full of wickedness and Islam.
The religious spirit in 2 major forms have highjacked this town that our King and Messiah grew up in. That evil spirit fills the air with multiple daily calls to ha’Satan––their god. During my 24-hour stay in Nazareth I heard the call as singing, not the anticipated annoying bellowing. Perhaps it is not always like I heard, but if the Muslim call to prayer doesn’t put a spell over you or the annoyance drive you to insanity then the Devil’s got the other side of the street for you to join. Where the church bells ring. The religious spirit of Islam and Christianity both in rebellion controls this town. I have no idea how they can even exist in the same place…except that they came forth from the same pit of hell, making them siblings on some level.
To be more honest the religious spirit boasts great control over the ENTIRE Land of Israel. Lots of religion; lots of nothing; lots of paganism and lots of rebellion. Sounds like America. Sounds like when Yahshua was here. Not much has changed I guess.
After traveling the land I felt it lacked heart.
Of course there are exceptions and of course we didn’t go EVERYWHERE, but where we did go (in general) I felt that religiosity, false worship, chaos, living in filth, man controlling man, lack of love and the lack of hope have nearly destroyed the heart. This was the beauty of not joining a tour, but traveling independently and being with the locals as much as we could. We got a reality check.
On some level, religion might look attractive, but you can be assured that no matter how much we drool over learning another way and/or pride ourselves over being tolerant and “seeing the good” in the different cultures and the religions that shape them they are products of evil, because they are man-made protocols to spirituality. And products of evil will eventually make the heart desolate. Which is ha’Satan’s goal. Desolation.
Ha’Satan wants to make the heart desolate and empty. He’ll do anything to destroy the temple of Yahweh Elohim. Religion is his primary tool. He hunted the heart to begin with at the Tree. Then throughout history, as seen in the story of Chanukah, he went after the brick and mortar temple. Now again, he lays siege to our hearts, Yahweh’s chosen location for his temple.
Papa allowed ha’Satan to make the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel) desolate because of Israel’s sin. Now the Adversary seeks to make Israel’s heart desolate with the lack of love. It has always been ha’Satan’s goal to bring death to where the glory of YHVH is and to those who bear his image, human beings. Without our hearts, without obedience to the Melech Tzedek, YHVH (Love Itself), we are dead and we no longer bear the Creator’s image. In this state, we can not be his temple.
Existing without your heart is no small matter. King Solomon, the wisest that ever lived said we must take care of our hearts at all costs. Without our hearts we can not hear Papa call to us. Without our hearts we will not be a place for his set-apart Ruach to dwell. Without our hearts we can not run the race and endure until the end. Without our heart we will not bear the image of YHVH Elohim, the Creator. Therefore, being a real human (an image bearer) becomes questionable.
I truly wondered whether or not certain individuals and groups of people here in the Land were human at all. Maggie saw a strange look in their eyes.
I conclude that ha’Satan controls the Land of Israel, and the people of Israel who are scattered all over the world with religion. It doesn’t matter which one. Just so long as they are slaves to something other than Yahweh Elohim. I can sense the battle in the heavenlies over the Land of Israel and the house of Israel. From top to bottom the Land is so polluted with rebellion, fear mongering, pagan worship, hate and conflict that I am confident that nothing will clean it up except the return of the Good King and Elohim, Yahshua. The same goes with Scattered Israel across the globe. I’ve felt it. I’ve experienced it. It’s threatened to make my heart desolate.
Israelites are brutal to each others hearts. That’s why we need healing at the heart level. We need to learn how to love again.
I’m not trying to be over-dramatic. This is how I see it.
But actually, now that I think of it, perhaps this is why, after Israel, I am struggling so hard right now to find my heart. I thought my heart would come alive there. I thought I would get clarity on some things. Yes, being in the Land had its amazing moments. But I’ve come back with a cloud of greater darkness over me than when I left. Yes, there are real issues that Isaac and I are facing that are hard which have to be dealt with and are no fun. And yes, I was twitterpated with the Indian summer we came back to and I was happy for a small season. But the snow is falling. And deep down Isaac and I have both been struggling with depression and a darkness that is challenging the core of who we are and what we are doing with our lives. But perhaps after journaling here I can identify the source.
Perhaps this chaos in our hearts is because we were in the most wicked place in the World and I need a good detox from the evil that crept home in my luggage. I say that because, though I know there are many wicked places on this planet — no where else was there a piece of land set apart by YHVH. He told his people to take the land and do HIS things there. But they didn’t. Instead, they rebelled and brought a great darkness there.
This transfers to Scattered Israel. Perhaps as I am constantly doing ministry among the scattered of Israel who, as a whole, seem to have the spirits of chaos-making, fear-mongering, man-controlling-man, religiosity and lack of love I have been picking up these spirits just by proximity. Perhaps I need a detox from ministry. I need to pray about this.
I digress….back to the Arab mansion in Nazareth.
This hostel served a Middle Eastern breakfast. You definitely do NOT see pancakes, waffles, bagels or bacon for breakfast here. On the table was a form of Israeli salad (tomatoes and cucumbers); flatbread, butter and jams; eggs, dates, halvah, hummus, beans; labanah cheese with za’atar herb; Turkish coffee, tea and juice. You definitely don’t leave the table with a stuffed feeling. Nice. I think I’ll be able to get my girls to eat salad for breakfast now. 🙂
One neat thing about being at a hostel is that you meet other travelers. A nice man from Norway (what was his name??) invited us to sit at his table with him. We chatted all during breakfast about all things Norway and Idaho.
After breakfast we packed up, said our goodbyes to the mesmerizing Arab mansion and began our descent down through the narrow, sand colored cobblestone streets of Nazareth to the parking garage. It was crazy how people drive up these alleys and park in places that don’t look they are made for parking. It is clear that the streets here were originally made for a donkey and cart––not for modern cars and 2-way traffic.
We tried to find an ATM on a Main Street in Nazareth, but we were too late again and the banks were closed in the afternoon due to the in-between holidays. But we did find a money exchanger and exchanged the rest of our American money for shekels. These guys reminded Isaac of the story of Zaccehus and Yahshua.
It wasn’t far to the Nazareth Village. This was our activity for the day.
Located next to a YMCA, they had a nice big parking lot. We got in right before a tour bus of 90 Koreans came. That was nice, in that the place wasn’t too packed. There was just a few other families there. They divided us into English speaking and Hebrew speaking groups and then provided the appropriate tour guide.
The Nazareth Village is 6 acres of land that is attached to the land above it where a hospital stands. This 6 acres stood vacant for many years. One day the owner looked at it and decided to do something with it. He was a Christian and thought people who came this place might have been like when Yahshua lived here. So, he began excavating it and building a small village. Upon excavating they found an ancient vineyard with a winepress. They believe that Yahshua may have played here as a youth. It would have been just a little ways outside the city. Who knows. Neat to think about.
There were many rooms that we had to go through to get outside into the Village. I think we spent 1/2 the time inside these rooms listening to our guide preach about Jesus. It’s definitely a Christian place. I think our tour guide was an Arab/Christian. Whatever the case, he was definitely a preacher. I liked it when he sang in the synagogue. He got in there first, sat down and began to sing in Hebrew. It was just beautiful the way it resounded off the grey stone cut walls. I have no idea what he was singing, but it was beautiful. I also especially liked what he said about how the ancients used to make olive oil.
We stepped into the village’s olive press. A donkey was harnessed to a stone wheel and they showed us a bit how it worked. The preacher man told us about the 3 kinds of presses they would do with a batch of olives. The first cold press was to get oil to eat. The oil of the second press was used for cosmetics and products. The oil from the third and last press was the oil they would use in their lamps for light. Wow! That struck me. The oil squeezed from the olives under the most pressure was used for light. Epiphany! Yahshua said we were light, but we don’t become light when we are pressed only a little. We become light when we are pressed a lot!
It was a good tour. I think the thing that frustrated me the most is that it wasn’t real. They were just local people who had a job as actors and a preacher who talked and talked. There was no action. The actors barely moved. Our tour guide would come up to the next station and grab the stage to explain everything. If you think you are going to see people working in an ancient village, it’s not like that. At least it wasn’t for us. Plus, there was no time to just sit and contemplate anything. If I hung out behind for too long (like a minute) to grab a picture the preacher guy would yell at me, “Mother! Come on mother!”
I must say that I loved, absolutely loved the synagogue they had built for the village. I wanted to stay in it and pray and think and feel… but the preacher guy shoved us on. I want to build one like that in Idaho. I wish. I know my family enjoyed the tour and I liked it as well, but it left me longing for more.
We were ushered out of the village and into the gift shop. We spent awhile finding treasures to take home. I really like my wooden camel, the oil lamps and the music cd I bought there. The cd was made especially for the Village. It is very ancient and calming. We are using for Shabbat’s now. As Hadassah and I were sitting outside the gift store waiting for Isaac and Maggie to get out of the restrooms, the preacher tour guide came by. I addressed him and tried to open up conversation about perhaps offering in his presentation that some people believe Yahshua was born during Sukkot, not Christmas. He was stuffing his face with food and as he tried to speak food flew out of his mouth. I could see the anger welling up inside of him. I guess I challenged him and he didn’t like it. He wrote Sukkot off and said we can’t know and he made a b-line into his office still stuffing his face with food. I guess that’s a “no.”
It took absolutely FOREVER to get out of Nazareth. We were trying to find a place to eat shawarma, but it was an absolute driving nightmare––there’s no way we could park to find an eatery. There are no lanes and everybody tries to fit three cars side-by-side in a place made for walking. On top of that add construction, pedestrians and school buses that basically nose dive into the traffic, block everybody and let kids out in the middle of the street. We went away from Nazareth hungry. See my video about driving in Nazareth.
After what seemed like hours we finally got on the highway towards Jerusalem. It felt good to be out of the city and cruising down the road. To our left and across the traffic I saw a gas station. People here say there’s good eats at gas stations. I’ve been avoiding that because I’m in Israel! I didn’t want to eat at a gas station! But we were hungry and so we went on an adventure.
It felt weird to head into the gas station to eat. See my video about eating at this gas station. But honestly, the food at the gas station was super good and healthy! We had stuffed grape leaves, stuffed squash, pita bread, schnitzel, and falafel. No catchup, no mayo, no cheese! Now I know that you can eat a healthy sit-down meal in an Israeli gas station.
Finally, we were full as we drove into Jerusalem. Driving into Jerusalem felt like we were driving into Portland, Oregon. Jerusalem sprawled a little bit more, there were taller green trees and a wider freeway. Of course, there were sections that had massive amounts of barbwire on the sides of the freeway and that was a little disconcerting. But perhaps these are sections of the freeway that went through the West Bank. I dunno.
It was in entering into Jerusalem that we encountered our first checkpoint. But nothing happened! It wasn’t scary at all. We slowed down a bit. Lots of cars all the same time were funneled through lanes with booths. We never came to a stop. Yes, there were IDF carrying big guns. Young women, mostly. But they just smiled, said “shalom!” and waved us and everybody else on. I guess they’re looking for something in particular. And I don’t think it was a car full of white tourists from Idaho carrying a trunk load of olive oil and wine from the North.
The deeper we got into Jerusalem the more I kept thinking it looked like Tigard and the Portland-Metro area. I know it wasn’t, but that part of our journey felt like home.
When we arrived at our new home-away-from-home for a few days we were blessed to get a parking place on the street right across from the bed and breakfast. Though the owners had advertised ON-SITE parking that was actually not true. There was ON-STREET parking. I guess to them it was the same thing.
This bed and breakfast was called the Jerusalem Garden Home. It was tucked back off the street through a lovely garden. But by the end of our stay I concluded that we probably won’t stay here again due to the issues we encountered. The owner greeted us and immediately lamented that she had no idea we were a family of 4. She thought we were a family of 2. Which she was going to have to charge more for the extra meals and the room wasn’t for 4, but she said it would work out anyway. I couldn’t argue with her, but when I got home I looked on my emails and saw that I had reserved for 4 and over the email she had agreed to switch us to a room that was more accommodating for our needs. Oh well. It worked out okay except that it had no kitchen area to prep food, the bathtub leaked and privacy was an issue. The little apartment had no storage so we tripped over our luggage for 3 days. The morning meal was late and the rain got everything wet, so when you sat on the chairs it made your bottom wet.
It was pretty cold our first evening in Jerusalem. Especially compared to where we had just come from. So we put our coats and walked to the nearby café to get some tea. I got a carrot orange ginger drink to try to help calm this cold down I’m still struggling with. Because it was evening here I could call back to the States to do business during their business hours. As we sat there. I called the bank again to get the international restriction lifted so that Shuki could charge our card for the stay in his cabin in Caesarea. And I also called my friend Dianne Davison just to say “hi.” I had no idea that it was her birthday! So I unknowingly gave her a birthday surprise call from Israel! 🙂 Our teas and drink cost $12! OMG! It’s expensive here.
And we walked back down the dimly-lit Derek Beth Lecham Street to our beds. They say you can walk this street straight into Beth Lecham (Bethlehem). Not what we were planning to do. We were exhausted––beds were calling.