A visit to the Holy Land is not all warm fuzzies. In these posts, I've talked about how blessed I was to visit the land and the awe I felt to actually stand in the places I'd studied about all of my life. But, I will be honest with you, there were some things I did not like. I'm going to talk about those a little bit here, in case you ever visit. Stay with me, because this post also includes some positives.
First, let me explain the photo above. Our last night in Israel was on the Sabbath. We were in Jerusalem, staying in a fine hotel in the Jewish quarter. When we came into our room, we found this little package in the bathroom. It is toilet tissue. I learned that some Jews consider it "work" to have to roll off and tear a piece of toilet paper on Shabbat.
I believe this is the type of thing that angered Yeshua. He railed against the Pharisees and Sadducees because they put such a heavy yoke on the necks of the people of that time. They were so concerned with the letter of the law that they missed the whole point. The Shabbat was made for rest, yes; but I don't believe one has to go out and buy special toilet paper to please G-d. When I saw this, I imagined Yeshua lashing out at the producers of these products, just as he did the merchants in the Temple. My husband, Rabbi Jem, teaches us that we are not to use the Torah as a shovel (to make money), and I think this paper falls in that category.
At that same hotel, a beautiful buffet was served on Shabbat. The dining room was filled with whole families who come for dinner. They even had their siddurs and recited and sang the Shabbat liturgy. These were Chassidic Jews who are rigidly observant. They even take it so far that they will not even pick up a piece of food if it falls on the floor. I was dismayed to see families with several children who made tremendous messes on the floor around their tables. When they finished, they left the room without cleaning the mess their little ones had made. I don't think G-d is pleased because this type of behavior disobeys His commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself".
|photo from Microsoft Office|
Speaking of luggage, we stayed in three different hotels in Israel. None had a person to help us with moving our things. G-d bless some of the men in our group who helped sometimes when we were leaving the bus. Moving luggage was a nightmare because of the Shabbat elevators. I had to drag luggage up and down the stairs several times by myself because there was no one to help. One hotel did call a maintenance man, but he took so long to come, I finally just did it myself. Shelby, my traveling companion, couldn't help much because of her physical limitations due to Parkinsons.
On both of my trips to Israel, it was obvious that the tour guides get kick-backs ( some type of compensation) for bringing tourists to certain shops. We wasted a great deal of time waiting that could have been spent site seeing. We sat around for about an hour at the diamond store, waiting on someone to have a diamond set. To me, it was time we could have been seeing other things besides a jewelry showroom. I'm not finding fault with the couple who bought the diamond. They didn't know that the group would be held up due to their purchase. I had a similar experience on my first trip.
On our last Friday in Israel, we visited Bethlehem (in the Arab area) and we waited in a very long line of cars to leave the area because of the security checkpoint. This made us late, and because everything shuts down early for the Sabbath, we didn't get to see the Israel Museum. I was very disappointed because it houses the oldest Torah scrolls, and was a real high point for me on my first trip.
On a positive note, the Arabic merchants in Bethlehem bend over backwards to get the tourists to visit their areas and spend money. As a matter of fact, they offered us hot tea while we were waiting on the bus to get through security. They are very nice and accommodating, but to me it's just not worth it if you are under time constraints.
Honestly, these are the only negatives I found on my trips. My advice, if you ever visit, is to book your own trip, pick the sites you most want to see, and choose a local travel agent to help you manage the logistics of travel around Israel. There is a train that goes from Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem that is not expensive. Renting a car is also an option for day trips. A couple from our congregation stayed in Israel for a month, rented an apartment, and enjoyed a relaxed schedule, renting a car when they wanted to take long trips. If the L-rd wills, I would love to go that route on my next visit.
Other positives about my second trip are that I was able to use American money everywhere we went. I never did convert to Jewish currency. I also was able to converse in English with everyone. I had been studying Hebrew, but wasn't fluent, so this was a big relief.
My first trip was for two weeks, and with a group of Messianic believers that focused on the Jewish roots of our faith and involved more Bible study and teaching. The second was seven days, focused more on the Christian aspect with visits to Catholic churches, and involved more teaching about the history and archeology of Israel. I enjoyed both tour guides, and learned a great deal on both trips.
My first trip was large, around fifty people. The second was only about a dozen. Believe me, the small group was the best, by far. There is so much more wait time involved with large groups because people get lost, take too long to shop, to eat....etc. I have been guilty of lagging behind myself, so I understand. It happens any time you put a group together.
I whole-heartedly recommend visiting Israel. The few complaints I mention here are so minor compared to the blessing and benefits of making this trip. I hope all of you Gail-Friends will get to visit, and I pray that Hashem will bless me with another aliyah very soon. My heart is there.
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