Israel, My Story – Part Six

The tunnels under the Western Wall, are something magical indeed. One needs to be ok in small, tight spaces, and be ok in a dimly lit space. I was sensing and picking up on all sorts of thoughts and feelings, the deeper we went. Having read so much about Jerusalem historically, and of course having read the Gospels in the new testament, it’s quite a buzz knowing you are walking on the actual stones that Yeshua would have walked on, and indeed travelled through the various waterways and archways. It reeks of history, and if you listen carefully, I’m sure you’ll hear the chattering of yesteryear.

Mt Ebal, which I have previously mentioned, is situated in what the modern world has called, the West Bank. In truth, even if this area is under the control of the Palestinians, it is part of the biblical heartland, and now solid evidence has appeared to show this fact. Many of you are aware of the recent discovery thanks to Aaron Lipkin and Scott Stripling, the curse led tablet that is causing a furore within archaeological circles currently. Good. They seem to hate it when biblical archaeology proves out the biblical narrative and text!

Never shall I forget the image of Phil running downhill past us, chasing after a bunch of schoolboys! I dare say it was the Carlton Beer he bought at the Samaritan Village for eight shekels that kicked in 🙂 His face ruddied red, mischievous grin, loose metal flying everywhere, and us ripping with snorts of laughter!! Oh bless him, he’s a good sort! It seemed amazing to me all the ruins that lay below and around the altar, and a shepherd riding his donkey, herding his goats, within the vicinity. All very normal of course. Sitting there declaring, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This place is beyond time, and we are so glad we got to be there and experience it, before it becomes a large visited tourist attraction.

Friends of Zion. This place really got to me, on a deep emotional level. Maybe it was the stories of my great uncle and grandpa that I was familiar with, them having been P.O.W’s in World War II, maybe it was again, that I have read some much about this time period of history – but whatever the reason, my eyes wouldn’t stop leaking and my heart was aching. I find it incredibly hard to fathom that Israel had to fight so hard to become a nation, and to this day, still has to fight so hard to remain a nation.

The itinerary said we’d have free time. We grabbed a taxi, went back to the hotel and freshened up, and then thinking we had plenty of time, found our way back. We actually were a little early, but no, everyone was there! I must say, the people who plan these itineraries cram far too much in one day. I think that’s why so many of us crash when we get home, or get sick upon our return home. Our bodies and minds have been exposed to such great extremes, and rest doesn’t really happen.

The farewell dinner was a supreme disappointment. The people who we were with previously, were supposed to save us a seat. They didn’t. The food was undercooked and most of us at our table couldn’t finish it. I felt ill after dinner, so we prayed, and I took some probiotics as a precaution. However, we got to sit next to Carl Gallups and share a bit of how we came to be on this tour. We mentioned being impacted by the programme he was on with Skywatch TV at the Jim Bakker Show. Carl is a deeply humble man, who seemed genuinely interested in us and our story. That makes a nice change.

When it was time to say goodbye to all the folks, some of the people we had spent the most time with, just buggered off without saying goodbye 🙁 Still, Neil and I went running to the buses, found said individuals, and made them hug us goodbye! You can’t leave like that, after experiencing such life changing moments together 😉

We spent our last evening in Jerusalem, with the effervescent Taylor. Or should I say, we ripped through the hotel trying to find a business card so we could call Charlotte, who left her purse on the bus. Or helping one of the ladies who was worried beyond belief that she didn’t have enough money for tipping (something we don’t do in NZ, it’s foreign to us), so we escorted her up to the ATM machine a few minutes up from the hotel. She hadn’t PIN numbered her credit card (who doesn’t do that?) so she couldn’t withdraw cash. We then crashed in the lounge bar and indulged in some divine Israeli wine, before heading back to our room one last time. The morning saw us saying goodbye and farewelling everyone off on the Jordan part of the tour. Most people thought we were going as well, but alas that will suffice for next time. Our time in Jordan nine years ago we keep in our hearts until we go back and have a good look, minus the food poisoning or the Jordanian guards trying to make a pass at me!

The story of Israel, will never end for Neil and I.  We are currently making plans to head back in March 2023, but this time, we will have Sammy with us. That will be an absolute treat! Julianna was supposed to be joining us, but alas, she is growing our first grandbaby instead – we are going to be a Safta & Saba, and we cannot wait!

To Anne, Phil, Bill, Carol & Jerry, Charlie & Deborah, Carl, Taylor, Derek & Sharon and lastly Charlotte & Michael – we are so very thankful our paths crossed with you all. I cannot convey how much you all have come to mean to us, but the Lord himself knows. Also to Billy Dean & Dawn, and also Carol H, it has been wonderful being in touch, after the tour. I hope something of these blogs reminds you to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem, and know there are a couple of Kiwis here in NZ who love and pray for you all, daily.

שלום וברכה לך תמיד 

Peace (shalom) and blessings to you always
Sandi xx

© Sandi Wilson

Israel, My Story – Part Three

We were just about to leave the house, so a quick mental check.  Steph and Juju were at work, Sammy had been picked up, our bags were packed.  I’d managed to organise our flights, the tour, insurance, three children, the welfare of my father, Sammy’s part time job, car storage, extra hotel and currency exchange, food shopping, paid the bills, all in six days!

No problems, time to grab a takeaway coffee and we were off!

We got to the airport and I could sense Neil was a bit tense, so we just stopped and chatted.  Everything was done.  His work encouraged this trip.  He decided to go running back to the carpark where the ute was parked up, just in case he’d not locked it.  It had been fine.  Once he’d gotten back to our table, we ordered some food, then started to relax.  Before we knew it, time was upon us and we lined up for our long flight.

We boarded the familiar Cathay Pacific plane, got ourselves ready, prayed and then that amazing feeling of speeding down the tarmac and liftoff 🙂  (I am the daughter of a Private Pilot, I LOVE planes!)  The flight from New Zealand to Hong Kong was eleven hours, and since this would be our third time doing this route, we knew what to expect.

We had a short stopover in Hong Kong, and to be honest it was great doing loads of walking after being cooped up on such a long flight.  We were both so excited, and starting to relax.  Neil loves the travellators!  We were having fun, just the two of us, and realised we hadn’t had an international flight with just us, in over five years.  We were like silly honeymooners, and it was fabulous!

We got to Tel Aviv, and even just being in the taxi and looking at the motorway in all it’s madness, felt like home to me.  In amongst the previous debacle, there were fun times with Neil trying to navigate a car on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the wrong side of the car.  He drove really well and ended up horn tooting, lane swapping, driving up on the footpath and yelling out the window – my own Israeli Hoon – so proud 😉

We got to our hotel that I had booked online on the Tel Aviv beachfront.  Think 80’s Miami; complete with short guy, large ego, long black mullet, fluoro clothing, jacuzzi in the room, 80’s video music playing in the lobby…..oh my life!  We got our bags stored and headed down to the beach.  Having found a restaurant on the sand, there we plopped for hours until it was time to actually check in to our Miami Beach Hotel (it’s actual name).  Armed with loads of water, we just bunked down at 3.00pm and apart from briefly waking during the night, slept through till 5am the next morning.

We arose, went to our breakfast across the road, and then stored our bags again as we set off to explore Tel Aviv for a third time.  Eurovision was happening and the place was bursting with an extra 30,000 people!  The heat was intense, but as you know, I tend to thrive in the heat.  Neil, not so much.  Along the waterfront they have many water stops, where you can drink fresh cool water and refill your bottles for free, and sit in the shade.  There’s a pier that we love to walk along, with an old light house, and so we headed off there again.  It’s a place of quietness and a bit of privacy, so we can feel the wind blow and just have ‘us’ time.

All the while, there was such a joy welling up in both of us.

We gathered our bags, called a taxi and headed back to the airport.  The blinking taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong terminal and so we had to catch a bus to the right one!  But it was all part of the fun.  We had time, the bus was free, everything was good.  Relax!!

At the airport, we spotted a seat, then grabbed a coffee and pain au chocolat croissant – yummy!  And then Neil turned around and saw Avi & Rachel Lipkin.  He was too shy to say hello, but they saw us and Avi came straight up to Neil, having recognised him from the first Skywatch TV tour.  Next thing, for two hours, we sat with these wonderful people, as Avi would up and wander around looking for ‘the lost sheep of the Skywatch TV Tour.’  Speaking with Rachel was amazing.  What richness and depth she has, along with a deep knowledge of the middle eastern conflict that forever rages.

Somewhere along the way came Paula, Phil, Anne and we needed another table!  And eventually in came the lovely people from Lipkin Tours.  It was wonderful seeing Leora who last year was very heavily pregnant, and seeing photos of her beautiful son.  It was lovely to be so warmly welcomed and hugged by her and Rachel from the Agency.

And then, the buses.

I remember when I heard someone say they’d been in Israel nine years before – I needed to talk to that person.  Little did I know they would land at our table later 🙂

Behind us sat Anne, and the dynamo who would be known as our Kiwi Pom – Phil.  I sat like a little girl bouncing up and down in my seat, just so excited knowing we were off and it was all happening!  Hearing all the different American accents, the English accents, a couple of South African accents – yes peoples, the United Nations were abroad haha 🙂

I was quietly praying that we would either get to stay in the Dungeon at the Nazareth Crown, or at least be able to enjoy the same view.  Let me explain.  The Dungeon was accessible by going into the lift down to the ground floor, then walking along and finding the service elevator, and taking that to the bottom floor which had only been done up earlier the previous year.  Then a very long corridor with all the rooms with such magnificent views.

This year we got the view, and it was wonderful.  Remembering the first tour and being mesmerized here at Nazareth with the jets flying so low late at night, only to awake the next morning and learning there had been rockets flying just a few kilometres from where we were. Present moment, we also had people above us who were sitting outside smoking and flicking their ash down on my hair!  Never mind, let’s not freak out.  Let’s just talk REALLY LOUD so they can understand that’s not happening again!  It didn’t 😉

So, now it was dinnertime.  I wondered if they were going to separate us into buses again – it really is silly, but kind of understandable.  Yes, they did!

Next thing we knew, along came Michael & Charlotte, Carol & Jerry, Val and Anne to our back table.  The fun had just begun, and we took that fun down the back of Bus One…. 😉

Nazareth at sunrise.

©Sandi Wilson.