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Random Thoughts on Israel/Italy Trip

1. ImageAlthough Jerry and I missed all our family, we desperately wanted to see Winston. Rebecca and Nathaniel picked us up at LAX, and waiting in the car was our black and white puppy. We’re all happy again!

2. I quite enjoy utilizing moving sidewalks in airports. Gives me an exhilarating feel of rare accomplishment!

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3. In our hotel in Istanbul a clock was on the floor under the counter in the bathroom. Never seen that before. Someone thought it might also be a scale. Definitely didn’t check that out: too much cheese, butter, and fine breads the past couple of weeks.

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4. I posted more than 100 travel pictures on Flickr today. You might want to check them out. I’ll be posting more daily.

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Finale

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Innova Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey awaiting our van which will arrive in less than an hour to take us to the airport for our 12 1/2 hour flight to Los Angeles. What a blast this has been. Don’t have pictures loaded to show you, but last evening we visited the grand bazaar here that consists of 5000 vendors that constitute the largest market place in the world. Our final dinner was  . . .guess what?. . .Burger King! First American meal we’ve eaten since we left. Not bad. We were worn out, Jerry was resting in the hotel awaiting a sandwich, so we grabbed a burger. Cool experience to see veiled women walking about shopping and eating hamburgers.

At the far side of the Grand Bazaar we hailed a taxi, Steve showed the driver our hotel card, and we roared down the narrow streets and the furious bustle of this the third largest city in the world. Taxi driver, I said. Yet he stopped five times to ask directions; one from someone on the street who ignored him, four from other taxi drivers. He and Steve in the front seat were roaring with laughter, talking to each other . . . in some strange language consisting of Turkish, English, sign language, with perhaps a bit of Spanish thrown in. “Is right?” he asked Steve several times. He, the taxi driver. Finally we saw the outline and brilliant light of our hotel, saying “Yes, yes, this is it.” Taxi driver was laughing uproariously. Steve tipped him well. The experience was worth it.

One of the things we’ve had to guard against (as is true in any part of the world) is pickpockets. On our last night in Rome as Steve was trying to locate a restaurant that had been recommended, two men lunged from a dark doorway and snatched his phone. They ripped the sleeve of his shirt, but he was able to trip one of them so that the man fell against a car, and Steve was able to retrieve his phone. His knuckles were skinned. The picture below is of a nice-looking lady, either in Israel or Jordan, who was pushing a child in a stroller, had another toddler, and tried to take the purse of one of our group.

Our room faces the Mediterranean Sea. Early this morning I watched through the fog as large ships slowly passed. It is Monday night in California; early morning here on Tuesday, April 1. Seems inappropriate to arrive home on April Fool’s Day, for this trip has been anything but that. Cheers! Onward! Bon Voyage!

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Rome

The eternal city . . . except that it really is not, but for now Rome is nothing short of fascinating. Our hotel, the Lunetta, is my favorite one of the entire trip. Small, (only 30 rooms) a four-star, it is elegant. The joyous thing about this gracious place is that when I open the front door and step my feet onto the ancient cobblestone street, my eyes and ears are jammed with authentic Italian life. We’re in the middle of it all, and they’re wonderful people: loud, passionate, friendly, and beautiful. So loud and happy that Saturday and Sunday night (and into the wee hours of the next day) they partied beneath our 3rd story window. Once in the black night I flung wide our big window–which has no screen–and looked below. The streets were full of revelers. They were joyous; Jerry not so much!

Michelangelo’s THE DAVID! Enormous–much larger than I imagined. Unspeakably beautiful. For some reason, these pieces of art make me weep. Such incredible talent. The Sistine. No words.

Rushing now. To Istanbul today. Will spend many days writing and posting picture when I’m home. Arriving in Los Angeles tomorrow evening.

One of the chapels in the Vatican complex we visited yesterday. It so happened that the pope made a live address, which we watched a portion of on a screen, the timing and crowd of 50,000 making it impossible for us to see him personally, although we were standing right there. Biggest crowd I have ever seen.

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Visual Snippets of Israel

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Israel/Italy Day 6 and Beyond

Some things are unclear. Certainly in history this is so, and completely understandable is such an assertion. However, more than once on this trip, I have been assured: Jesus walked here. I still can hardly take it in, and to remind myself I have snapped pictures of my own feet, and have had others take shots as I stood in a place where almost certainly Jesus once stood. Amazing. It is an amazing story. The country is so plain, arid, dusty, rocky. Little, if anything, is spectacular as far as physical beauty is concerned. But . . .the story, the back story. . .The valleys echo with the long-ago talk of That Man, the hillsides are alive with memories, and it was in this place that lame people leaped, and where blind beggars gasped at their new vision. The seas, the rivers, the lakes, the villages, their close proximity to each other, the dress that continues to this day. Astounding. Nothing short.

I waded in the Jordan–muddy Jordan–and just before Pastor Walls baptized a couple from our group, we stood on the shore and sang Blessed Be The Name, and people cheered, and across the way, they paused to listen, and took pictures . . .

In a place that is almost surely very near the original spot of the outpouring, we gathered in an upper room, and sang, and surely angels were near.ImageinImage

One thing that has made this trip so special is that several of my family are here. We have laughed, prayed, worshipped and played together.

image Three of my grandchildren are here with Jerry and I as are my son Stephen, his wife, Dearrah, and my brother David and his wife Shelley. We’re having a time!

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Israel/Italy Day 5

Today I rode a camel. Happened this way: I wanted to ride the critter, but my skirt was not full, and I was expressing to Steve my concerns when the “camel manager” said I could ride side-saddle. As I stood beside the animal, and was maneuvering so that I could mount him, the “manager” said, “No, no. Just put your arms around  me. ” I did, and before I knew what was happening he had swung me up and I was atop a camel!  I was roaring with laughter, and tugging at my unco-operative skirt . . . let me remind you, my entire travel group was gathered about, laughing, snapping pictures . . Not good, but grandson Joel to the rescue.

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“Here, Granny.” He shrugged from his jacket, and placed it across my knees.

It is high atop a camel, let me remind you, and I was squeezing something–some kind of a handle– for dear life. I felt as though I would topple forward, and go sprawling out before all my friends. . . but I didn’t!

Jerry had not seen my gracious mounting, but looked around and there I was, my figure outlined against the Jerusalem sky. “I could not believe it! I can’t believe you had the nerve to do that.”

Camel riding is exciting, but it does not compare to other things we did that day. A view of Golgotha and a long walk through the garden where Jesus prayed, communion. . .But I just cannot quickly write about such things . . . too moving, too spiritual, too emotional. Must save those thoughts for later.

 

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Israel/Italy Day 4

What a dynamite trip, but let me warn you: It is not for the faint of heart–or the faint of foot or the faint of back muscles, or the faint of any other muscle you can imagine. We’ve trekked up hills, down hills, over stony paths, climbed scores of steps . . . and even sat one out, when we would have descended 170 steps and climbed out 100 steps . . .something like that! We boarded the bus around 8:30 on Friday morning and it was 5:10 in the evening when we arrived in Jerusalem, which is about 120 miles from Tiberias, and parked in front of the Olive Tree Hotel. Dinner would be served at 6:00. “Locate your luggage in the lobby, place stickers on them, and the bellhop will deliver them to your room.” But our precious friend Patrick Garrett thought that would take too long. “I’ll take your pieces to your room.” And he grabbed someone to help him, but there were masses of people waiting for elevators, so they took off up the stairs, suitcases in hand. Our room was on the 8th floor. I suspect he was near a pant when he set down those bags.

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It had been an exciting day that had included a visit to Nazareth where a Christian association has replicated life as it would have been in the boyhood of Jesus. Peopled by those in first century clothing, a carpenter’s and a weaver’s shop with on-going demonstrations–among others–enveloped me in its charm and authenticity. Sheep roamed and shepherds stood about. A working press had produced olive oil a few days before.

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A simple synagogue with simple stone pillars had been erected. In such a place Jesus would have been taken to as a child . . . and He grew . . . and then the people were astonished at His sayings . . .and they wondered. . .”Can anything good come . . .?” I was struck at that moment by the reality of Jesus and His story. He really did live here. He played on these paths, and ate supper with Mary and Joseph and with his siblings, and of a certainty Mary continued to ponder it all, and at night on their mats she and Joseph must have had some interesting discussions. I placed my feet in spots, where no doubt our mighty God had walked. Incredible.

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Israel/Italy Day 3

I had walked onto the tiny balcony before going to bed and though I tried, I could not see it. But after sleeping a couple of hours and again looking, I saw that directly in my line of vision was a splendid body of water: The Sea of Galilee. The early morning sun slanted over the broad watery Sea of Galileesurface, a long arm of sheen shimmering in the gossamer fog, and I called Jerry to come look, and I called Steve to thank him for arranging our room with such a view.

Caesar was the name of the hotel, its dining room was large and beautiful, featuring a great buffet for our breakfast. Freshly baked bread  was mounded near one end of the food presentation, close to the coffee bar where we chose Americano style, which was strong and delicious. Lots of fruit, several varieties of eggs, cereal, pancakes . . . After selecting our food, imagewe seated ourselves on a large veranda overlooking the sea, ate the food, visited with our friends and family, were introduced to some who would become new friends . . .and reveled in the understanding that we were gazing at the body of water where Jesus and his men sailed, where they tangled around with nets, and where Peter took a sea course in walking; where lessons were taught and where storms were conquered.

In a line we walked down to board our boat. We sang. We prayed. We viewed the city of Tiberias sketched against the sky. I tried to take it in, but found it hard: Jesus, a human being, my Savior, my redeemer did as we are doing, heard the same sounds, felt the sway of the boat, and watched as fishers cast out their net.

Before nightfall, we ate “Peter’s Fish” on a wide sprawling lawn that led down to the sea, traveled to Caesarea, and into the icy water that flows from Mount Hermon and that eventually contributes to the Jordan River, I dipped a foot.

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Israel/Italy Day 2

Whew! Not sure if this is day 2 or day 3. It is 2:00 am on Thursday morning and I am sitting aboard a luxury bus in the country of Israel. We’re tearing down the road heading to Tiberius where we will spend the night (or what is left of it) in the Caesar hotel, which I understand overlooks the Sea of Galilee. We had a great flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul on –guess what plane: Boeing 777! But we didn’t disappear, rather had a smooth wonderful flight, although I suspect I did not sleep more than two hours. After a textbook landing in Istanbul, and a four hour layover there, we boarded another plane and flew only two hours, then landed in Tel Aviv, where after going through Customs we boarded this bus.

We will arrive at our hotel about 3:30, breakfast is at 7:00, then at 8:00 we enter a boat and sail across the Sea of Galilee.

I’m totally jazzed, and at this moment don’t even feel tired. Something must be wrong with me. 🙂

I’ve taken several pictures, but haven’t loaded them to my computer yet. One of my favorite shots was as we waited to board our final flight, I noticed a lady on the floor of the airport a short distance from me. It startled me, and I, thinking, she had fallen began to walk her way, when I saw that she had removed her shoes and had a prayer shawl laid on that hard floor. She was praying, most likely to Allah. Discreetly, I snapped a couple of pictures.

So on this dark, foggy night, I am in the land of the apostles and the patriarchs. I sit aboard this bus in the land of the Bible. In the land of Jesus.

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ISRAEL TO ITALY– Day One Part 1

4:00 AM

I have this uncomfortable trait of finding it difficult to sleep when I am very excited about a trip. Such is the case this morning. I’ve been awake since 3:00, tried to go back to sleep, could not, so here I am thinking about our trip which begins today.

Morning musing……

On Friday night at the ladies conference last week, I stopped and talked a few minutes to Brother Johnny Hodges about our trip to Israel, telling him I had never been, and how excited I was to be going.

He had gone to the Holy Land several years before. As we spoke, his mouth began to tremble and I could see he was overcome with emotion. “The most moving part of the trip, Sister Buxton, was one day as I stood with my wife near Golgotha. I lifted my eyes and looked, and there I identified that hill, for I saw the face of the skull. . . I knew it was the place.”

Brother Hodges, an elderly, snow-headed man, an esteemed minister, could hardly talk now. I covered his hand with mine as he struggled to continue, his face a study in passion and grief. “It was there,” I said to my wife. “Right there, Elaine. Jesus died for me.”

He cried. I lingered a bit, then walked away.

In a few days, I too, will stand there. I will gaze on that cruel–yet glorious–place, and no doubt, I, too, will be overcome with emotion.