Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Returning to Israel

Where did the time go?

We JUST left Israel to spend Christmas with family... is it time to go back already?

Yes it is. Our time at home has gone by way too fast! We leave tomorrow afternoon for a long day of travel to return to Jerusalem and the Garden Tomb. We will be staying until March 31st.

Yes we have been watching the news. We are aware of what is going on in Israel. We have also been looking at what is going on around the world. We face bleak days at best and are reminded of a need to proclaim the gospel all the more while we can. We are expecting many visitors at the Garden from Nigeria as well as other countries in the near future. Our job is to present the gospel clearly. Pray for us as we attempt to faithfully do what God has called us to do.

We are also making plans for two other missions trips in 2009. One to the Philipinnes in June and another to Mali in West Africa later in the New Year. We are excited about the opportunities God has given us to serve Him. You can help by praying that God will keep us safe, in good health and faithful to Him as He provides all that we need to do all that He calls us to do.

Our next post will be from Jerusalem... until then SHALOM!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Homeward Bound

Sunday, December 14th, we drove to the Dead Sea and hiked up into the Wadi at Ein Gedi to the falls. David hid from Saul in this area and it was pretty exciting to visit. You can see the Dead Sea from up near the falls and our hearts were drawn to wonder if David wrote any of his Psalms while hiding out where we were.

The hike was quite streneous and we did very well thank you very much. We could not have done the hike on our first visit to Ein Gedi when we first arrived. But today we are in significantly better shape than when we came - some what lighter as well! One of the especially good side benefits of serving the Lord in Israel!

This morning we will leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv and our 11:15 AM flight to the USA. We are looking forward to seeing some of our family (and wish we were seeing the New Hampshire family as well!!!!) and friends while we are home.

We will return to Israel January 1st and will stay until March 31st. If our new President invites us to one of the Inaugural Balls, we will give our tickets to our friends Jack & Nardos Shuler!

To everyone, we wish you a blessed Christmas. We have been reminded every day over the past six weeks the tremendous price God paid to ensure that we could have eternal life through His Son - the Best Gift ever given!

Friday, December 12, 2008


It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas??? Well perhaps somewhere but not in Israel! Not even a visit to Bethlem, the city of the birth of our Lord, was enough to make us feel like Christmas is in the air.

We are looking forward to and even counting the days until we leave Isreal bound for the USA to spend Christmas with at least some of our children (we leave Israel Tuesday morning arriving in Tampa near midnight the same night). You would at least think that since we live in the Holy Land now we would feel like Christmas... not so.
On our day off this week we visited Bethlehem. We enjoyed our visit but didn't feel like Christmas.
Manger Square & The Church of the Nativity

Judy at the door to Nativity Church

The Star marks "the place" of Jesus Birth

If any of you traveled with us to Jerusalem in 1980, you have very fond memories of Phil Pantana getting in trouble at this confessional in St. Catherine's Church!

On our return to Jerusalem we walked through the Old City... Judy bought me my Christmas gift... I get it on Christmas day. Yes, I helped her pick it out - "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" from the Song of Solomon (6:3a) in Hebrew is your clue... I love it and will appropriately act surprised on Christmas day! Or Christmas Eve as I understand the Houston plan is... but that's OK because Judy has promised to act surprised when I give her her gift as well... Yep she helped pick it out too. We are such dorks!

After our shopping trip we climbed up onto the roof tops of old Jerusalem (now, we finally begin to feel like Christmas! "up on the roof top click click click" ) ... HEY! I already confessed to being a dork, leave me alone! What an incredible thing to do. We got some amazing pictures and had a wonderful time. Especially when we came down the wrong staircase and wound up in the Yeshiva restroom to the shock and great dismay of one of the Jewish students! We retreated to the roof top giggling and laughing (remember I said we were dorks?) and found the correct staircase down.

Up on the roof tops

Doesn't Judy look relieved ... not from the restroom but by virtue of the fact that I finally found the way down!

We plan to go to Ein Gedi on Sunday and walk to the springs where David hid from Saul. However, if it rains, the spring may be closed because of flash flooding. In which case we will visit one of Herod's palaces on the Herodian instead. Either way, we will travel about with our friends from England and have a great time.
We are looking forward to seeing some of our family and friends in Tampa in a few days. May God bless you with a wonderful Christmas from Jerusalem!

and just incase you ever wondered...

New York doesnot hold the patent on weirdo's ...

Meet King David of Jerusalem circa 2008!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dreams Fulfilled...

We have been coming to Israel for thirty one years and there were always some places and things we wanted to do but never have had time. In the midst of serving God every day in the Garden, He has graciously allowed us time to

1. Walk the Walls of Jerusalem,

2. Visit areas of the city we never had time to, and

3. Do things at a leisurely pace.

This past week we have been able to spend two hours on a double decker bus driving around the city of Jerusalem. This was a lot of fun as we were able to fix in our minds where things are in relationship to where we are. We were able to spend a long time at the Israel Museum where the Shrine of the Book is.

The Scroll of Isaiah that was discovered in the caves of Qumran is housed here.

The Model of Jerusalem has been moved from the Holy Land Hotel to the Museum. It is displayed in a much better setting and we spent a lot of time just slowly walking around it. There is a great viewing platform that puts you above the model where you can get a really good perspective of how the city of Jerusalem looked in the time of the Second Temple.

The other thing that I (Al) have always wanted to do was to go inside of David's Citadel and we never had time to do so. We have been inside twice!

Once for a Sight and Sound show of the history of Jerusalem and again today just for a visit. We spent a couple of hours at the Citadel. I loved it! The view of the Old City are fantastic!

Adding to all of that, we have dearly enjoyed our leisurely walks through the old city. We had lunch today at our favorite Falafel Cafe and joined the Sunday mobs in the narrow old city streets.

This week we plan to visit Bethlehem on our day off and Ein Gedi with our friends next Sunday. We will walk to the falls and visit the caves where David hid from Saul in Ein Gedi.

We are excited that we will be heading home in a few days (December 16th), looking forward to seeing the kids in Tampa, going on to Houston for Christmas with our family there, and spending time afterwards with our church family at our home church. Those two weeks will go by all too fast as we return to Jerusalem January 1st for three months.

We are so incredibly thankful that God has chosen to use us here at this time to share His love with countless individuals in the Garden Tomb.

... and, as usual, we end our day in the Garden!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday in Jerusalem!

You're probably tired of reading; "Our day begins and ends in the Garden." However, we are not tired. We love this place!

We had coffee this morning at the Cafe at Christ Church with Steve and Sue (friends from the Garden) - got there too late for church, will worship elsewhere tonight. Had lunch at a great Arab cafe in the old city. We were trying to go up on Temple Mount and finally made it but were not allowed to go into the Dome of the Rock or the Mosque that is on the Mount. Several people told us; "you are not Muslim" ... to which I wanted to say, DUH! I guess no one but Muslim's are allowed in now. Muslim's believe that God will hang scales on the arches you see in front of the Golden Dome of the Rock in the picture below to weigh the souls of humankind on the day of last judgment.

But we did enjoy being on the Mount and got a great picture of the back side of the Eastern Gate (below) that is walled shut. It is through this gate that, according to Jewish Tradition - the Messiah will enter Jerusalem and that is why they believe the Muslim's walled it shut in the seventh century.

Back down through the Arab Quarter, visited our friend Issa and I did some Christmas shopping while Judy picked up things that were ordered by other people.

We are resting and looking forward to church tonight..

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Day in Jerusalem

We were off on Thanksgiving and could have prepared the feast that our daughter prepared in Houston... but chose to trek across Jerusalem instead. Our dinner consisted of soup, for lunch, at the Cafe at Christ Church and a falafel for supper.

In the morning we set off to walk the wall again. This time we went up at Jaffa Gate at David's Citadel and headed south toward Mount Zion, around the South West corner, over Zion Gate and descended off the wall just before the Dung Gate. We doubled back to the Zion Gate and exited the old city to Mount Zion and the church of the Gallicantu where Peter heard the rooster crow after denying Christ. The church is built over the site of where Jesus was held as prisoner (traditionally), near the home of Caiaphas the High Priest, the night He was betrayed.

We went back into the city at the Zion Gate and walked through the city to the Jaffa Gate for lunch and back to the Garden. In the afternoon, we went back to the Western Wall and decended into the tunnel that leads along the foundation stones of Herod's Temple Mount platform.

Later in the evening we went back out and attended a light and sound show at David's Citadel. The history of Jerusalem was projected on the walls of the Citadel and was quite impressive.
As always our day begins and ends in the Garden.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Roaming Around Israel!

Two days off and places to go and things to see and do... and do them we did!

Early Saturday Morning we left the garden in the Garden Car and drove down by Jericho and headed South to the Dead Sea.

The weather was warm and traffic was practically non existent. We stopped off at the Dead Sea for a leisurely stroll and potty break (yes, you needed that information!) and drove on to Masada the site of one of Herod's palaces and the last stronghold of the Jewish Rebellion against Rome. We visited Masada last in 1988 with our children and friends from our former church in Massachusetts. The good thing is that the cable car hits the wall just below the top of Masada now and you walk up a gentle ramp instead of climbing stairs.

On our last trip one of the people traveling with us was terrified of that climb up. There is a great museum now at the guest house well worth visiting. On our way back to Jerusalem we stopped off at En Gedi where David hid from Saul. We decided not to walk to the falls but would save that jaunt for another day. They told us it would take an hour to walk to the falls. Which meant an hour walk back! We would be pushing it to get back to Jerusalem before dark. Yep, we turn into pumpkins after dark. Actually, we thought it would be wise for us to be off the roads before dark so we did.

Today (Sunday) we were out of the Garden early again with another couple here, Steve & Sue Bridge from the UK. We took the car and drove north to Galilee, visited the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount,
drove by Capernaum leisurely and stopped for lunch at En Gev where we had lunch with our family in 1988 and started our boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The food was vastly improved and the weather was much nicer too. It was bitter cold in '88 and perfect weather today. We ate lunch at a table by the Sea of Galilee and skipped the boat ride.

We stopped off at Bet Shean on our way back to Jerusalem. Another place we visited in '88 and again in 1992.
Bet Shean was one of the largest cities of the ten cities of the Decapalos in the first century. It was an incredible Roman city and the ruins there today are vast. We had a wonderful time walking around. We were home after dark but in time to watch our home church's morning worship service on our website. They were having Communion this morning in Tampa and we joined them with our own bread and juice. We were blessed.

Tomorrow we are back to work in the Garden and I have to tell you - as good as the last two days were, we missed being here. Every day we acknowledge that God is so good to allow us to come here - a MAJOR dream come true.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Temple Institute

I (Judy) went to the Temple Institute today. I thought you would be interested to see some of what I saw. They have made utensils, implements, instruments and priests clothing for the Temple when it is rebuilt (no I don't have any inside information on when that might be). We visited this place 16 years ago so it is interesting to see what has been done. As an FYI, they are also training priests for temple worship.

In the Holy place, there will be the incense altar, menorrah, and table of shewbread which are all completed. They are all gold or gold overlay and very beautiful. I was surprised to see what the table of shewbread looks like. The bread is stacked in 2 stacks of 6 bread loaves in each stack representing the 12 tribes. The bread sits on racks (so they don't touch eachother) behind the ornamented leaf like decorations.


Table of Shew Bread

The high priest has on his attire. I expected the blue to be deeper and darker. This blue die comes from a special kind of snail. The crowns are crowns that would be worn by him as he ministers. The altar of incense is in the picture with him.

Priest's Garments

There is also a model of the temple there. all in all it was pretty interesting.

So far we haven't gone up on temple mount but we will. I try to go to the western wall a couple of times a week to pray for you. I know God hears me anywhere but it is a special blessing for me to call out those we love and their needs there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This has been a busy week in the Garden. Several thousand people came to visit. Fortunately, they did not spend the night and we didn't have to feed them! Unless you count the fact that we fed them spiritually...

We had a group from Kingford, Texas this week. I invited them to Thanksgiving Dinner at our daughter's house in Missouri City, Texas... I hope you don't mind Tracy.

We went up on the Mount of Olives this morning - took a local bus that took us within a half of a mile to where we wanted to go. We walked down across the Mount of Olives (supposedly on the route that Jesus would have taken on Palm Sunday). We stopped off in the Garden of Gethsemene. Some of the Olive trees there are over 2,000 years old. Took pictures of the Eastern Gate. We were going to walk back up to the Garden - but the road coming out of the Kidron Valley is a lot steeper than it looks from the top. We opted to take the bus but while we were waiting we talked to one of the street peddlers and he offered to drive us up to the Damascus Gate so we rode with him.

We bought falafels and some veggies from the market near the Garden and went back to our apartment for lunch. After lunch we walked back to the Damascus Gate and down into the Arab Quarter, visited our friend's shop and had coffee in the Austrian Hospice ( a small hotel). We went up on their roof for an incredible view of the old city.

We went to King of Kings for church again tonight (same place we went last week), Joel Rosenberg was speaking. The Chairman of the Board of the Garden Tomb Association and his wife took us in the Garden Car (we will use this car next weekend to go to Galilee). The Service was great. Afterwards the pastor interviewed Joel asking him some very pointed questions re the end times. We walked home with the lady that runs the gift shop and Reception Desk at the Garden. She came as a volunteer sixteen years ago and has not gone home. Don't panic Jennifer or Carly, that is not what we are up to!!!

And tomorrow begins week three in the Garden. Where is the time flying to?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday November 10, 2008

Entering Jaffa Gate

Today was our day off and we set off early to walk the wall. The guide book said this adventure was not for the elderly or infirm - that instantly became a challenge to us. We are neither ELDERLY nor INFIRM and we set out to prove that. To which I should say; stupid, stupid, stupid. Early into the walk I told Judy that we should do it again and count the number of stairs we went up and down. Before we finished I was saying I did not care! The wall walk was awesome and I am glad we did it ... but as the kids say we have been there, done that and don't have to do it again. However since we started at the Jaffa gate, went North came around the corner and crossed over the New Gate, Damascus Gate and Herod's Gate exiting at the Lion's Gate near Temple Mount we want to go back one day and go South to the Dung gate near the Wailing Wall.

All in all the walk on the wall was a great experience. We are exhausted. This is definitely a Tylenol PM night! We have walked so much and hurt in so many places sleeping may be difficult... we are certainly getting old!

We came back to the Garden and have been resting. Back to work tomorrow and we are excited about that. We ran into a couple of ladies, up on the wall, who were in the Garden last week and were in one of the groups I took around.
The golden Dome of the Rock stands on Temple Mount near where the Temple once stood.
The Mount of Olives - Gethsemene
We leave you with this from Psalm 134:3; "The LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion."

Sunday November 9, 2008 In Jerusalem

The Garden is closed on Sunday (our day of rest), most Christian churches meet in the evening and the one we wanted to visit (King of Kings) meets at 5:00 PM. So we walked to the Western Wall of Temple Mount where we prayed for family and friends (if you are reading this, you are probably one of the people we prayed for).

From there we walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus for Catholics.

After visiting the church we had lunch at a side walk cafe. Our favorite - Falafel!!! YUM YUM...

this has become our favorite lunch - fried chic peas and salad in a pita with sauce.

Then we walked on to the Cardo, a Roman excavation in the Jewish Quarter

It was pretty exciting to visit this area that was under excavation on one of our last visits and see how much has been excavated since we were here last. From the Cardo we walked back to the Garden, rested and then walked to church (25 minutes up hill ... no one told us it was UP HILL!)

We worshipped at King of Kings. When they spoke of Jesus they called Him by His Hebrew name Jeshua and instead of Christ they called Him Messiah. Very often the two names were together - Jeshua Messiah. We sang many songs that we sing at home and some in Hebrew as well. We were blessed.

Our children keep telling us that they are waiting for the day when someone we know walks into the Garden. Well, we walked into church last night and we heard a chorus of "Al, Al, Al" from up on the shelf (where else whould our class sit?) Judy was shocked but it was a group that had visited the Garden Tomb the day before from Canada. We sat with our new friends. What a great way to spend a great day - from walking the streets of Jerusalem to worshipping the King of Kings at the King of Kings with new friends!