In Search Of Living Stones

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Month: May, 2012

May He bring you home rejoicing : At the wonders he has shown you;

Oh the wonders!

On Monday I set off to go to Jerusalem to start volunteering with Musalaha. But first I had to make it through the check point. Up until now I had only used a car check point where you stop at a gate, wave your passport and they open the gate. The pedestrian checkpoint is not so different, except there are a lot more people, only 1 terminal for about 150 trying to get to work. Because they’re all so eager to get across they end up pushing and piling about 4 to a turnstyle, which brings a command over the loud speaker of ‘Akhat! Akhat! Wahid! Wahid!'(One! One! In Hebrew and Arabic). It took me 1 1/4 hours to get through in the end. I took the bus home

The bus takes about 35 minutes and costs 7.3 Sheckles ($1.94AUD $2.51 NZD) but is faster and less frustrating. On the bus we go through a different check point where the soldiers just come and check your passport/permit.(only a few Palestinians can go into Israel and they need to hold working Permits) The comments I get from soldiers always make me laugh and usually run along the lines of, ‘Woooow NEW ZEALANDA!’.

This week I have given the task of creating a kids program for a family conference they’re holding in Germany as well as small admin jobs. Salim has taken to calling me Benjamin and when introducing me to people I am ‘the trouble maker’. The rest of the week has been quite boring(well for you anyway) because its just me going to work everyday.

Friday was Micah’s birthday so I skyped him and sang happy birthday. Was a little sad, but not too much. Friday night I went through the check point, it took me all of 5 minutes, and caught the bus into Jerusalem for church.  It was so good, the message was about the Desert Fathers and living so others are impacted. So good.

Saturday I went on a hiking/caving trip in the desert with some young adults from Musalaha. I wore shorts out of my house for the first time in two weeks. Such a strange feeling. It was really hot. And really fun. There were 15 of us in total, 3 Palestinians, 11 Israelis and me. We met in Area C(a place where its legal for both Israelis and Palestinians) and hiked for an hour(downside of wearing shorts, your legs get ATTACKED) before coming to a labyrinth of caves. The caves were awesome! There was some parts where you needed to crawl on your belly and other parts where you could stand up. When it came to a loop that was all crawling I decided to stay behind. If anyone has been in a small cave with me(Cassia, Cherish and Shayna) you will know that I probably am not the best at coping with them. So we all got out after about an hour and had a delicious lunch of pita, hummus, and tuna and I was privy to some of the most amazing, honest conversations that arose as they each tried to understand the other side.

I walked, ignoring the mean plants  vying for a piece of my skin as I listened to one guy trying to explain how he feels as a Palestinian Christian at the checkpoint and the other try to explain how he feels about how he feels about joining the army as a Messianic Jew. So incredible.

Afterwards we all went to a park and ate Kanafeh. Two years in the waiting, and it was SO worth it.

Today I am going to clean my house, cook some meals for the week and be sunburnt. Thrilling!

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Hymns, Old Jerusalem and Zatar

On Friday I went for another walk, I am starting to enjoy walking and discovering by myself. Its different, its new, and can be enjoyable.
I only went out for a while though because it was 31 degrees so I ended up hanging out at the flat and having a nap(to get rid of my nasty jetlag).
Friday night I went to church with Charlotte in Jerusalem, we were picked up by an American basketball coach called Jess and drove over.
Church of The Nazarene is held by Damascus gate on Friday nights in a basement. The congregation is made up of aid workers, students, local residents, tourists and volunteers. There is usually 15-20 people a week(although there were 10 this week) and they gather to eat, pray, praise and worship. The worship was so good, just a guitar and a drum singing hymns and older songs. So different and so refreshing from what I have been used to. I definitely want to go back. They also gave me labneh.

After church we went to a flat warming for someone from church.
His apartment was HUGE with amazing views of Jerusalem. There was also a olive grove outside his place with a camel and her baby just chilling.
We had a few drinks and talked well into the night and crossed back over the boarder at 1am.
On Saturday Reetta and I bought Ice Cream(of course) and caught a bus to Old Jerusalem and wandered around a bit. Love being back there, but definitely TOO busy haha.
I love being surounded by people speaking Arabic and Hebrew. I really like being able to pick out bits of peoples conversations in Hebrew, what an evs dropper!
We caught the bus home, parted ways and I did some grocery shopping. I walked through the old city with its more authentic shops and bought some zatar from a small spice shop where, upon walking into the store I was handed a small cup of strong coffee. This is local custom here and part of their hospitality, everyone who walks into the store gets coffee or tea, friends, relatives, tourists and customers. I love it. They also put cardamon into the coffee, it tastes amazing. I did some more grocery shopping and spent about $12.

I came home, made some baked Pita with zatar on it dipped into labneh. It was seriously delicious. I then crashed at 9pm which was amazing.

Sunday morning I went with Reetta and Madji to Mar Saba, an amazing monastery built into a cliff. Surrounding Mar Saba the opposing cliff face is pock marked with caves where the monks lived before the monastery was built. There is even a cast iron cross in a ‘window’. There were also two boys hanging around with their donkey tethered close by to a tree. When asked where they were from they told us that they were from the neighbouring town and didn’t want to go to school today because they can make more money from tourists. The older boy was also playing music on his phone, todays choice was ‘Smack That’ by Usher. Brilliant.

After taking in the wonder of Mar Saba we drove to Herodium, this is where Herod the Great built a castle. We were too poor to pay entrance fee so we simple took photos of the view instead. Photos seriously don’t do justice.

After that we drove home where Reetta and I had lunch at my house before saying goodbye.

Today, I go into the offices! How exciting.

Living The Dream

Today I feel like doing a happy dance, my life is so amazing! I’m seriously pinching myself right now. I have four days until I have to be in the office, so today I woke up in my room, in Bethlehem. I can’t believe that I get to say that, oh you know, just living in Bethlehem, just the usual. Last night my housemate and I celebrated by eating out in Manger Square. We had this delicious traditional dish called Maqlubah, which is an upsidedown casserole. This morning I went for a walk by myself for the specific purpose of getting lost. Getting lost in a city with time to spare to explore is one of the great things in life.

I came back and met my neighbour/landlord who is probably one of the nicest people I have ever met. He owns a souvenir shop next door and I sat there talking to him and a Finnish girl for almost an hour. Majidi(landlord) drove Reetta and I to Manger square where lazed about at a cafe and drank juice, both relishing the idea of not being rushed. I even got my second ice cream for the day, this time proper Arabic ice cream, so good and elasticy!

After a while Majidi’s son, a tour guide came and took us on a tour of  The Church of the Nativity(the church built on the staples ‘where Jesus was born’), which was amazing and we got to cut all the long lines, always a bonus. When we arrived there was an Armenian Mass going on with priests singing in deep baritone voices that echoed from the rafters. When you stopped and shut your eyes it just vibrated through your soul.

Afterwards we walked to a felafel shop and ate until I felt ready to burst. Afterwards Reetta and I walked through the markets and bought another ice cream. 3 in one day is normal right? When we got back to Majidi’s where we found ourselves looking after the shop and haggling with Russian couple who spoke no English while we spoke no Russian. We had a good giggle.

Now I’m home with my newly purchased fruit. I can’t wait for Grapefruit for breakfast.

Arrival

Ah. 

Breath. (and not only because i’m out of the horrible air conditioned plane.)

I am here, and I am safe and I am tired!

Sorry that I haven’t updated for the last week, preparation was getting pretty crazy and the trip over didn’t give me much of a chance to fill you in.

Sunday morning saw me leaving Australia with many tears and hugs to arrive in overcast and rainy Auckland.(I also saw Ma’a Nonu, but that besides the point.) In Auckland I was picked up by a family acquaintance who I have not seen in almost 10 years, after 5 minutes in the car I discovered that her dad has just come home from Israel doing almost exactly what I am. There certainly are no coincidences with God.

I went to church and caught up with my lovely friends. So nice to see them. Its not home.

Monday started with a 5am start to the airport. I was alone. Korea was great, as usual. I stayed in the same hotel I stayed in last time for my 23hr stop over, the 4 star Hyatt Regency where upon arrival we were treated with a ballroom banquet. I ate dinner with some Czechs on their way home from NZ, they wanted to know if I ever wore shoes, seeing as I was a kiwi. Good to see we leave the right impression.

Tuesday morning saw me eating my weight in breakfast, getting locked in my room and swimming once I escaped. The pool complex is amazing with a pool, gym and separate male and female hot tub/cold plunge and sauna. Just think of a Korean style hammam. It was wonderful to relax in here for an hour between my two 12 hour flights.

While we were boarding to plane in Seoul we spotted the Wizard, he had been staying with a tour group in our hotel, he sported a long graying beard, a black hood with crosses and stars attached to a long black coat that went to 6ft down to his feet. If Saruman has gone missing from Middle Earth, I know where to find him. After some investigating I discovered that he was in fact the Australian/NZ Cardinal for a Syrian Orthodox church. Awesome.

I was in Israel. Again.

Sheryl found me at the airport and we were off, on the way to her house she pointed out Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank. She said on clear days you can see Ashdod, Caeserea and the Mediterranean. This country is tiny. 

Luckily I slept on the plane because right now* it is 5:30am and I have slept a grand total of four hours.

 

Actually, right now its 11:03 am, I wrote that in bed while trying to sleep, coffee is my friend today. I am sitting in the Musalaha offices, listening to people work behind me. This morning Shadia and I went for a walk to buy amazing food, and chocolate milk in a bag. I can’t wait. I bought a sim for my phone and organized for me to move into my apartment this afternoon. We drove through Jerusalem this morning, I really do love it. Might crash on a couch verrrry soon.

I don’t have any photos(sorry Mara) yet because my camera died and I haven’t found my adapter to plug stuff in. 

Love you!

Update(on packing…)

So I thought I would update you on whats up this week, besides running errands working a shift this morning and crazy trips up mountains to look at the city I have had one overall task, to pack

Packing, its one of my least favourite things to do, ever. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to pack for six months with a restricted dresscode. But I am trying, and it is hard!

Here are some photos of my progress;

I got my bag and opened it up.

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I threw all of my clothes on the floor.

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Now I’m here trying to figure out what clothes look best on me when I am walking through a soukImage

 

I think I should go in search of some motivation.

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Ready to say some goodbyes and cry a lot.

Why ‘In Search Of Living Stones’?

I thought I would explain the name I chose for my blog as it is quite significant and not instantly obvious.

The phrase ‘Living Stones’ came from the book that started this all in the first place; The Light Force.

In the book Brother Andrew writes about his new mission field, the Middle East.

He talks about how every year thousands of Christians come to Israel to see historical religious sites, to see where significant moments took place,full of old buildings and old ruins of buildings, essentially old, dead stones(I hate talking about history that way). Brother Andrew  urges us to seek out the living stones  as well, the Christians doing life right now in very real communities, on both sides of the wall. This phrase captured my attention and clearly hasn’t let go.

I felt like I had been slapped in the face with reality, primarily because the concept of Palestinian Christians never even crossed my mind, I though Palestine-Arab-Musilim. Of course there are Palestinian Christians, some of the most significant moments in the Bible took place in Nazareth and Bethlehem, both Arab cities. Secondly, I was taken aback because that had been me.  I had been so wrapped up in seeing  every other amphitheatre and roadside museum that I missed out on what was going on right now.

So now, two years later I guess I have taken that as a challenge, this trip is me, In Search Of Living Stones.

Jem