May 24, 2010

Day One: Israel

It's day one of the tour! And I've also been awake since 3 AM. Oh jet lag, you are too good to me. At sunrise, Charmaine and I headed out to the Mediterranean Sea and it was even prettier in the morning! It was here, with my toes buried in the soft, white sand, that I finally realized I was in Israel. It's a crazy feeling, and I dare for all of you to try it sometime. To be completely honest, Israel was the last place I thought I'd ever go. Actually, it wasn't even the last place, it wasn't in any place! It never even crossed my mind. I'll be the first to admit that God was in this; since I obviously never planned for this, who other than God could've written the itinerary? 

So random fact: in Israel, breakfast consists mostly of hard-boiled eggs, salad, watermelon, chocolate pudding, and cottage cheese. It's almost weird, right? Oh and at breakfast, I even had a cappuccino latte. I only stooped down to this level because it felt like 5 in the afternoon when really it was 7 AM. Talk about a looooong day.
Anyway, we all packed up our luggage and loaded it onto the bus with us. After we were all seated, Pastor Wee informed us to take a good long look at the person next to us, because they'll be our seat partner for the next 17 days. Haha, this was funny you see, because everyone was sitting with their husband/wife/friend.... Well...I thought it was funny. Every morning on the bus someone from the tour group does a devotion using the tour-guide microphone. I'd say it's a good start to the day! What I got out of this devotion was that "it's by the grace of God that we are here today, in Israel. We're here for a reason and he's going to teach us amazing things."
We went to Caesarea, a city built by Herod in 13 B.C. This is where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned for teaching in the Jerusalem temples. It was sort of hard to picture such a thing in my head; I can't imagine Paul being here. I mean, I don't even know what he looked like; it seems so far off to me.
We then drove up a hill overlooking the Valley of Armageddon. Revelation states that this valley is a focal point of where the final battle of the anti-christ's followers will take place and they will be defeated. This was also crazy. Can you honestly picture the end of the world? 'Cause I'm sure having a hard time. Wow.
Before reaching our hotel in Tiberius, we stopped in a little city filled with street vendors selling goods of all sorts. I came to this street feeling excited...and left this street feeling completely exhausted and almost stressed. It was here I decided that I hate bargaining with store owners. I also hate even being near them. I know I know it's a pretty harsh thing to say. But it's absolutely crazy. If you show a tiny bit of interest in lets say...a flag, the vendor will grab it and put it in a bag even before you say you want to buy it! They're also on your back the whole time; even while walking past a store they will run out and shove items in your face. The shopping experience is definitely very different from anywhere else. I feel like all those times I spent at the street vendors in the Caribbean and Mexico weren't nearly as crazy as these here in Israel. After buying a few things, I was more than glad to get out of there. This experience made me worry that the next 17 days were going to be like this.
Our hotel in Tiberius was amazing, and our balcony even overlooked the Sea of Galilee. What more could you ask for? Oh wait, I do know what I could ask for: free internet! But alas, that was impossible.
That night we loaded ourselves up with a buffet dinner, of course, and then had a little praise and worship thing. I am one of the worship leaders on this trip. Isn't that crazy? I can't really classify standing up front beside the guitar as "leading" though.
Oh and what's with the picture of the empty and deserted pool you ask? Well, apparently... ALL HOTEL POOLS IN ISRAEL CLOSE AT 6 PM. I'm not even kidding. I think it's an issue having to do with the lifeguards or something. But we all found it absolutely crazy, because most people on vacation only have time to go swimming and relax beside the pool late at night, right?? It also doesn't help that the weather at night is like plus 30 with a hot south wind.

Lilah Tov!! (For all you English speakers, that's "good night" in Hebrew) Yes, I am determined to learn some Hebrew on this trip.

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