Friday, June 23, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 5: Bethlehem

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem...
I do know that song...kind of. At least I know it around Christmas time, right? Well, we made it to Bethlehem. It's kind of cool how much I feel like I'm learning from being over here. Before I left, I had to sit down with a friend who had been here before and have her pretty much brief me on the last 50 or so years concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. I didn't even know that Bethlehem is actually part of Palestine, or the West Bank, and is an occupied territory (stay tuned for more Layman's terms information about that later).
We were picked up by Basheer, the second oldest child of four to the Zoughbi family. Pastor Issa Zoughbi started House of Bread Church. It didn't take long for our families to warm up to each other, and soon all of us 'kids' were joking around and laughing a good bit.
It's amazing to think that we were less than a football field away from where Jesus was born, that we could walk to the fields where David, as a shepherd boy, tended his flock and wrote beautiful poetry and songs to the Lord. It is a shame, though, that this area is now enclosed by a 30 foot high cement wall, its inhabitants prisoners without bread in the city of bread. I got a lot of my information for my paper on the conflict from the Zoughbi family, as they were so gracious to share with me their side of the story. As we fell asleep, we could hear the rumbling sounds of Israeli tanks and jeeps patrolling the streets below. I will never forget that sound.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 3: Culture Shock

If you have ever been out of the country, you will be quick to agree with me that a change in surroundings, culture, language, religion can be, 'how do you say...' a bit stressful. This is a fact I have found to be true in many different situations, and in many different countries around the world. For example...

I remember enduring stress as fifteen year old, when my family took our first out-of-the-country trip to Argentina to visit with my grandfather and relatives for a few weeks. I had been taking Spanish to help prepare, but found myself longing for home, my friends, and familiar ways of doing things. Everything was 'weird' and it didn't take long for me to be counting the days until departure for SC.

After graduating college, two weeks after 9/11, I had a chance to visit friends in Austria and the Czech Republic. For the first hour that I was in Europe, I think I cried, worried, and almost peed my pants while a taxi driver whom I was convinced was really part of the Austrian Mafia ready to take me to a schnitzel house and slit my throat tried to figure out where he was supposed to take me through a language barrier. (Note: for more details on this story, please inquire personally).

My journal entry from my first mission trip to Sri Lanka is complete with drawings of streets with cows, rickshaws, bicycles, people, and mud...my first experience there involved the Missions Director praying over me so I wouldn't get carsick (I had never dealt with motion sickness before) and me just barely making it to the toilet in the lobby of the hotel before losing my airplane breakfast.

I could go on....I may be boring you. Am I boring you????

Well, for your time's sake and mine, I'll fast forward to this experience in Israel/Palestine, and would like to share a little bit of wisdom and knowledge that I have obtained from my way-too-expensive Master's Degree in Cross Cultural Studies and Leadership Development...

Culture Shock is a very real issue that people must deal with not only when they arrive in a host country, but also sometimes when they return home.

Some symptoms of culture shock:
  • Heightened irritabilty
  • Constant complaints
  • Criticism of people & culture
  • Preoccupation of being robbed or cheated
  • Refusal to learn language
  • Utopian ideas of home culture
  • Preoccupation with going home

A lot of culture shock

I'll suffice it to say that we have been experiencing some culture shock within our 'team' and need a little extra time and space. But that is NORMAL and OKAY. Ah, the joys of traveling.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 2: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Tales
We left Galilee and headed south, with a stop at the Dead Sea to float around a little bit. The feeling of weightlessness was truly incredible...and the salt in the eyes is also something I won't forget. Yuck. But overall, we had a great time covering ourselves in the mineral-rich mud from the bottom of the Sea and trying to make ourselves sink. The freshwater shower afterwards was extremely refreshing, and we found a fun beduoin tent to take some pictures in (but we haven't done a picture exchange yet and John and Pepper took those pics, so just take my word for it).
After swimming and floating our hearts out, we drove past Jericho into what may be the most coveted piece of property in the world...Old City Jerusalem. It was like nothing I've ever seen. We drove through the Lion's Gate, where Stephen was stoned in Acts 7, past the Israeli soldiers, and to our temporary residence, Ecce Homo Convent. It was dark, and there were but a few Arabs walking through the stone streets. The Muslim call to prayer from the mosques was blaring...we were definitely not in Galilee, Jesus' workplace, anymore. But the Lord was still with us.
Our first day in Jerusalem found us on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed before being arrested. We then followed the Via Delarosa, or way of suffering, and retraced Jesus' footsteps as He carried the cross on the day He was crucified. I was hoping for more of a spiritual experience, but alas, the stresses of a foreign culture, issues within our 'team', and the hustle and bustle of busy yet narrow city streets somehow took a toll on my ability to reflect on the significance of the experience. Thankfully, we will have many more opportunities to retrace these steps throughout out time here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 1: Galilee

The Adventure Begins!

We made it into Tel Aviv on Friday, June 9, and were greeted by John, Pepper, John and Denice (Brandon's Bro, Sis-in-Law, Dad and Mom) at the airport. It was late, but Tel Aviv was hopping! We stayed at a hostel about 2 blocks from the beach, and the nightclubs were bumping their beats well into the morning...actually all night until the sun came up. They say, "Work in Haifa, Worship in Jerusalem, and Play in Tel Aviv." I guess the people there got the memo.

We headed to Galilee via Nazareth, and spent some time at an reenactment of a 1st Century Nazareth village where Jesus probably lived and learned carpentry. As we drove through the hills of the countryside, we all got excited to see the Sea of Galilee where the disciples were called and Jesus did much of his ministry. We stayed with an American couple who have a Study Center/house there, and were very thankful for the wonderful accomodations and yummy food while overlooking the breathtaking water. Throughout our 3 day stay in Galilee we hit almost all of the toursity sites. Our personal highlights: Tabgah: the area where Jesus met the disciples after the resurrection and instructed them to throw their net over the other side of the boat, a 3000 year old gate thought to be the one Abraham walked through when he was being obedient to God and came from Ur, Peter mother-in-law's home, which is said to be one of the first house churches, & the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Here, we stood in different spots on the mountain that was naturally shaped like a roman ampitheatre, and Papa John stood down at the bottom as Jesus was believed to have been. From there, he spoke in a normal voice, and we were all able to hear him as he read from Matthew 5-7. It was a great experience, and really made the Word come alive to us!

Also, to remind ourselves that it is a small world...

While we were in the northern Galilee area of Tel Dan (the place where the tribe of Dan finally settled), we were exploring the ruins of the city walls and gates when someone called out, "Nicole!". I turned around and gasped to see at friend and co-worker of my mom's coming towards me. Heather Matthews was a news broadcaster in Columbia for many years before she made the move to Nexsen Pruet, where my mom also worked. There they became friends, and Heather's love for the Lord and sweet personality was evident to Mom. I also enjoyed getting to know Heather during my visits to the office, and was really surprised to see her there...out of business attire and into tourist mode! She and her husband, Jim, had come with a group from Columbia and just happened upon us in a remote area of Israel! What a glimmer of encouragement that Our Father knows us where we are, and is even concerned enough to allow small spurts of joy throughout our day.