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Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

Masada

posted by jfletcher

This is my fifth trip to Israel, and they get better and better. We are perfectly safe, the weather is gorgeous, the food incredible, and the historical sites are other-worldly.

Two days ago, Jonathan and I went to Masada, the ancient summer residence of Herod, on the Dead Sea. Of course, it is more famous as the scene of a ghastly last-stand by Jews who refused to bow to Rome. One thousand men, women, and children died on the summit, killing themselves rather than face a life of slavery.

It is redundant to say that it’s hot down there, the lowest spot on Earth. But, it was hot. A dry heat, yes, but an extremely hot dry heat!

When you travel south to Masada, you will drive the length of the Dead Sea. I was surprised to see that opposite the fortress, the seabed was dry. This was the region where Sodom and Gomorrah once existed, as well. Brother, this is a forbidding climate, and not for the faint of heart.

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And, for the Weird File: I took a slight wrong turn on the way to Masada, and ended up asking directions at a Palestinian-run gas station…done-up in an Elvis motif. The incongruity left us laughing most of the day.

Despite the unrest in this region, we are encountering people who are lively, seemingly content, and resourceful. What an amazing country. You should simply decide to make the trip.

Long live Israel.

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It might be the end, but the food sure is good

posted by jfletcher

Being in the holy city of Jerusalem is of course an amazing experience. It is now about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the start of the work week here.

I am listening to the Muslim call to prayer, thinking about my drive through Ma’ale Adumim yesterday and how President Obama needs to take a drive around the city to fully understand what he’s talking about. I’m also thinking a lot about the souls that live in this city, ranging from the Palestinians who eek-out a living selling souvenirs to tourists, to the fascinating families living in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

To be perfectly honest, though, I’m thinking about the food. Two nights ago my marvelous 19-year-old son, Jonathan, and I had dinner at the Armenian Tavern, just inside Jaffa Gate. Let me tell you something: wherever you live on this planet, get on a plane and come to Jerusalem for this magnificent food. I’m told the Armenian Tavern was once a Crusader whatchamacallit.

We also had some great-tasting stuff yesterday on the way to Masada. I don’t know what it was, but it was delicious.

Just some light-hearted fare today, from a place that knows and suffers from conflict.

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Christ Church

posted by jfletcher

I’ve stayed in plenty of hotels in Jerusalem over the years, including the fabled King David. For a trip with my son, I decided to spend a couple nights at Christ Church Guesthouse, just inside the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate.

What a great choice.

The church, the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East (built in the 1840s, so one hopes that on his trip through Palestine, Mark Twain at least popped in), Christ Church is a real oasis.

Just a few feet from the first British Consulate (1820), the guesthouse and grounds is perfect for pilgrims, is safe and comfortable.

There is even—apparently—a lecture later in the week on the subject of Bob Dylan and the end of time. I’m not sure if the two are linked.

In any event, we are off to the Dead Sea today, and Masada.

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Something fishy in Jaffa

posted by jfletcher

Today, my son and I went to the old port city of Jaffa, just south of Israel’s modern city of Tel Aviv. The place, of course, is famous for a lot of things, including visits by Alexander the Great and Napolean.

It is however most famous as the location for a famous Bible story: Jonah and the “great fish.”

Standing on the dock, I watched Israeli boaters head out to sea and I was reminded of the critics and the scoffers who allege that Jonah was not a real person; after all, the whole thing about a whale swallowing the reluctant preacher is too fantastic to believe, right?

Yet we believe in alien life, of which there isn’t a shred of evidence. So many want to believe it, fervently hope it is true. But miracles in the Bible are tamped-down and/or ridiculed.

There are marvelous reasons for believing that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be and that the historical records hold up to scrutiny. We’ll talk about those in the days and weeks and months to come.

For now, I am glad I was able to visit old Jaffa, the city of Jonah.

I believe.

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