In Search Of Living Stones

Month: September, 2012

22 Years

(and one week)

Last Wednesday I celebrated my 22nd birthday, after being spoiled at the office with pizza, cake and cards I spent the evening in the desert with some friends. The desert was beautiful, we had a BBQ, sat around the fire, drank wine and looked for shooting stars. There is definitely something serene and beautiful about the desert. It was a great way to spend my birthday.

Birthday Bon Fire

As I catch the bus at rush hour everyday, I get to have some pretty interesting experiences. Like talking to someone on the bus about his daughter who lives in Sydney, or over packed buses with people almost sitting on each other.
On Thursday, as the bus stopped at a junction, a woman started yelling at a group of men. She was just upset that they were pushing her, but the toothless old woman in traditional dress sitting in front of her didn’t see it this way. She turned around, and took it upon herself to yell at the first women for yelling(because that makes sense). This turned into a bit of a competition to see who could yell at the other louder. As things escalated, others on the bus tried to get involved to tell them to calm down and stop. This only made the toothless old woman angrier and she started yelling at them. As I’m watching this I’m trying really hard not to laugh at the sit-com-esque scene playing out in front of me. My composure crumbled when the elderly Muslim man next to me started chuckling loudly and tryed to get me to join in. By this point the original woman had shut up and was sitting quietly, so the toothless old woman decided to yell at everyone on the bus. She stood up, took her walking stick and started waving it around in the air, occasionally banging it down on the floor of the bus. By this point the bus driver was having trouble focusing on the road because he was laughing so hard. Even the first woman getting off the bus didn’t deter her, and she kept going until we reached the bus station. Who needs t.v’s these days when you have toothless old women?

Sunday I went to church with some friends, and joined them for lunch, chicken stuffed with rice. So good.
In the evening I hung out with my ‘second family’ and we went bowling. The bowling alley is new in Bethlehem and quite a novelty! Adam(3) is now talking SO much that its hard to get a word in edgewise. He speaks Arabic so well, and I find myself a little jealous. Haha. He also talks just for the sake of talking, at one point he called out, ‘Baba! Ta-al hon hunak!’, ‘Daddy! Come here there!’ haha.

Monday I stuffed envelopes all day at the office, came home and decided to cook some lentils, but needed chili powder. So I ran up to get some from the store, only to find that they only had Paprika. So I decided to make chili con Carne, and needed mince. So I went next door to the butchers, with all the carcasses hanging from the roof and sawdust on the floor. Once I order my mince they offer me a small cup of strong coffee and simply hack a piece off  one of the hanging carcasses and mince it up for me.  I leave happy and caffeinated. Coffee cup
Me and my freshly minced meat

I love living behind a vege store, 2 convience stores and a butcher.
Dinner was delicious. Afterwards I went out with my flatmate and friend for a drink as we sat around a bon fire, wrapped in sleeping bags. Its getting cold!


Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

After ending the last blog with ‘onwards and upwards to another week’ my body decided to get tonsillitis.
Realising that I could hardly string a sentence together, I went home early on Monday. The same day that the West Bank public transport went on strike. I managed to get the check point(via bus and taxi) and once through I was able to call my landlord to come pick me up and drop me back home. Its only a 5 minute walk, but I just couldn’t do it. Luckily I have an amazing landlord.
I spent the rest of the day on the couch feeling sorry for myself, and for once wishing I was back home. I heard a protest outside my house about the rising cost of gas at one point, but I couldn’t move, so I stayed on the couch. At one, particularly miserable point I did beg for my mother to buy a plane ticket to come look after me.

Feeling better(apart from a scratchy throat), on Thursday I jumped onto a bus to The Sea of Galilee(The Kinneret). 2 years ago my family stayed with a family  acquaintance in a huge house with incredibly views of the Kinneret. We all have fond memories of our time here and we talk about it regularly. It really is my favourite view on earth.

Best view ever

Micky, the host, has an open house and often has different people from all over staying. There was a big event on that weekend called, ‘Swim across the Kinneret’ so the house was going to be full. His son, Gal and his 2 friends were there and we got on immediately. We spent most of the night just hanging out and talking, this is exactly what I wanted this part of my trip to be like.
Friday we went for a hike up a rocky hill to a spring, after a short detour(‘to get you hot and sweaty so you’ll appreciate the water’) we found ourselves at a spring coming out of a rock face. In the rock a small door was cut, climbing through the door we found ourselves in a cave half full of water. It was amazing and the perfect thing after hiking up (and down) the hill. On the crags of the rocks there were candles everywhere. We finished the day by eating apples dipped into honey to remind us to have a ‘sweet new year’.

The next day we all woke up early to go down to Kinneret so the others could swim. I was left with everyone’s stuff on the beach to people watch. It was packed, there were over 6000 people swimming. The others finished, collected their Choco(Chocolate milk in a bag), bun and medal and shared their Choco with me. On our way out Gal(around 26-27) spotted the waterslides, and informing me that they were the ‘height of happiness’ ran off leaving me with his stuff and dragging his friends along. I laughed at them, but only because I didn’t have my togs and couldn’t go.

After a delicious BBQ and relaxing for a while, we decided to go down to the Jordan river to jump off a tree. We set off, passing the pilgrimage shop/baptismal site/ restaurant, stopping further down the river. The water was amazing and jumping off the tree was exhilarating. This is also why I was here, for amazing experiences like this. The river was packed with families picnicking on the riverbank. After we decided who could make the biggest splash and were exhausted we sat down for some coffee before heading back. Passing the pilgrimage stop again I thought about how sorry I felt for all the tourists, they pay USD$25+ to be baptised in a small, manicured part of the Jordan river when I get go a few metres down, climb up a tree and jumpinto the cool, refreshing water. Two very different experiences.

So beautiful

SundayI relaxed, and read a book, before setting off for Haifa. After a few change of plans, I was invited to stay at Micky’s for Rosh Hashana(Jewish New Year) and to his daughters for dinner. His daughter, her husband and son had just been to NZ so  they were great to talk to. Before dinner we went for a walk to the beach with Alon(3) but that ended with him telling us that ‘this was the most annoying day of his whole life’.(kids don’t change wherever you go) Dinner was great starting with Alon, Alon’s dad and Gal doing the haka. We ate and talked and wished everyone a Happy New Year.

Haka for Rosh Hashana

MondayI went for a walk along the shores of the Kinneret, sitting under the shade of some date palms for a while. While walking I spotted my second chameleon of the weekend. The first we spent 1/2 hour trying to get him out from under the car after he decided the wheel was a good place to live. After resting I walked down to the Jordan River to go for a swim. I love swimming in rivers, they’re so nice and refreshing. That evening Micky was going out for dinner to celebrate a friends birthday and invited me. It was nice.

Date Palms

Tuesday I relaxed, as it was too hot to do anything and just thinking about walking back up the hill made me cringe. I sat, read a book and chilled. Once the sun started to go down(and the holiday was officially over), I caught a bus to Tiberias, in order to catch a bus to Jerusalem. The ride back to Jerusalem was full of unusual encounters. First of all, on my 3 hour bus ride there was a dog, not some cute handbag dog that Paris would walk around with. This dog was huge!
At the short stop in Afula I spied a guy Maori tattoo, upon asking where he was from I discovered that he was from Titirangi and was working at a kibbutz. And on the bus home I met a girl from Brisbane volunteering at ChristChurch.
I love meeting all sorts of people from all around the world, but its amazing when you meet someone from home.
I am home ‘home’ now and thankful a bed and a space to call my own.

Until next time,
May God Bless you and Keep you.

The good that comes from Nazareth

I know that it has been almost a month since my last post, and for that I apologise.
Work at Musalaha has slowed down now that all our big events have finished. After our 3 summer camps we had 3 overseas trips in the month of August, the Young Adults went to Norway, the Youth went to Holland and the Families had a conference in Germany. Never fear! There is still work to be done  the paper work.

In the last few weeks I have been travelling to see friends with my new found free time, a weekend in Tel Aviv, a few days in Beer Sheva and this weekend I spent in Nazareth. Because I have already seen all the tourist sights, I am simply enjoying my time being with friends.

This weekend, as I said, I have spent in Nazareth with my friend Shadia and her family. Shadia runs the Youth department at Musalaha and I work closely with her. On Saturday I spent the day with her nephews as they practised with their new magic kit. They were hilarious, and I spent most of the time being told to ‘close my eyes'(I didn’t previously know this phrase in Arabic but quickly learnt when they kept repeating it)  while they attempted to wow me with one of their tricks. Hours of fun, made funnier when the tricks didn’t go exactly as planned. Much fun was had alround
Saturday night we had a massive BBQ (in celebration of the newly built BBQ) for which I had been saving stomach space all day.  All round it was a great day of fellowship, fun and food.

Today I went to the Baptist church in Nazareth with Shadia. Thankful for the fact that they have a translation. In church we sang a Hillsong song that had been translated to Arabic and afterwards the Pastor spoke about a New Zealander who lived in Nazareth and worked at the hospital. I love how small the world is.
In the afternoon I caught a bus to Haifa and walked around a little, enjoying the afternoon and buying Knafeh on the way back. I bought the knafeh from sweets shop that I went to with my  family two years ago. Two years ago when this journey started.

The title of this blog is an answer to the verse in John 1:46 asking
What good can come from Nazareth?’

Nazareth holds a very special place in my heart, and for good reason. When I was here two years ago it, was one of the two Arab towns we visited(not counting Jerusalem), in Nazareth we went to the Basilica of the Annunciation(‘just another church’) and went to Nazareth Village, which was far more interesting. While there we had a guide who talked us through all the parables and taught us about how things were done in Bible times. All the while I was trying to figure out if our guide was an Arab or a Jew.

And then we entered the Synagogue.
In the Synagogue our guide spoke about what happened in Luke 4:17-21 when Jesus stood up, took the scroll of Isaiah and read the prophesy. And repercussions of such an act.
What struck me about this part of our tour was that our guide spoke with such passion, such conviction. This wasn’t just a tour guide who had memorized a script. I realized he was someone who lived and breathed this text. Who had a relationship with the author and the subject. By this time I had also realized that he was and Arab.

I was baffled, this idea had never crossed my mind before. An Arab. A Christian. One and the other. To this day I’m not sure why this got my attention like it did, and why it stayed with me.

On the way back to the car I saw a church with a sign saying ‘Jesus is Alive’ in English and Arabic. I took a photo of it and thought about it often.
My experience in Nazareth was the starting point of the adventure I am on now, it was what opened my eyes to the Palestinian church and its existence.
I passed the church today, its still there. I stood in front of it briefly, thanking God for the change he has done it me.

I pray that you have a soft heart, willing to have your eyes opened to possibilities you don’t know exist and that you will be changed because of it.

Onwards and upwards to another week!