I had heard it said that visiting Israel really brings the Bible to life. Now I know exactly what that means, and it is absolutely true! I will never read the Bible in the same way again... it is a life-changing experience!
We landed in Tel Aviv on May 4 around lunchtime, groggy from jet lag but thrilled to be in the Land! Our hosts (Marv and Dave Rosenthal from Zion's Hope) and Tito our Israeli tour guide, jumped right in and took us straight to Jaffa (aka Yafo or Joppa).
Jaffa is mostly an Arab town. Jews and Arabs lived here in peace and harmony until the birth of Zionism in the late 1800s. The Jews then moved north to start another city, Tel Aviv. The area was swampy and they were told it couldn't be done. Today Tel Aviv is the largest metropolitan area in Israel; a contemporary city with a population of over 3 million in the metro area.
|Photo from Jaffa with Tel Aviv in the distance|
Historically, Jaffa has been an important port city in Israel. It was here that Jonah boarded a ship while fleeing from God after receiving His directive to go preach to Nineveh. It was also the place where Peter saw his vision of the unclean animals. From Jaffa, Peter made the journey to Cesaerea, as commanded by God, to visit the household of Cornelius the Roman Centurion. (By bus, it sure seemed like a long trip... I can't imagine it on a donkey or on foot!)
|In the Jaffa Visitors Center|
|A peek into a Jaffa bakery|
Our tour bus then took us up to Netanya, which is a city on the Mediterranean Sea, just north of Tel Aviv. The city was named for Nathan Strauss, co-founder of Macy's, who along with his brother Adolph, invested money in the development of the land then called Palestine, in hopes that someday it would be a Jewish homeland. When it came time for them to return to America, Nathan didn't feel well and he told his brother to go ahead without him. Turns out, his little illness saved his life. Adolph departed for New York... on the Titanic, where he perished.
We were all very tired after our long flight and our long day of touring, so did we hit the sack early and get a good night's sleep? Of course not! We were in ISRAEL! After dinner, we took a long walk down to the beach area.
|From the Netanya beach at night - our hotel is in the distance, up on the cliff|
It was Shabbat, so the streets were deserted. In Israel, everything Jewish pretty much shuts down around 3 pm on Friday afternoon as people get ready to celebrate. All public transportation ceases - even El Al Airlines doesn't fly on the Sabbath. The hotels have special Shabbat elevators: they take you to the top floor and then stop on each floor on the way down. That way, you don't have to "work" by pressing a button. (It is fine if you would like to climb up to your seventh story hotel room though - I guess that is considered less work - although having done that very thing, I have to disagree).
The Israelis are very family-oriented, especially when it comes to Shabbat. A friend that we met over there told us it was like having Thanksgiving every week!
|An Israeli family prepares for their family Shabbat celebration at the hotel|