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Life on the ground in Israel

I voted absentee in Jerusalem

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 by Sandra

Shabbat was a glorious day.  Bright and sunny and temperature in the mid 70’s.  I visited and ate lunch with friends at Focaccia, walked around Jerusalem and ate again.  It’s not a visit to Jerusalem with eating at Focaccia.  It was indeed a time of resting and refreshing.

Today dawned another bright and crisp morning.  After Shabbat, the city is really coming alive with the sounds of building, cars everywhere and people back to their weekly work.  Another stop at Aroma Cafe for my annual almond croissant, and I am ready for the day.  I cannot believe I leave this evening for the States.  I am so blessed to be coming back on the 15th with a group.

I voted absentee at the U.S. consulate last week in Jerusalem.  What an experience.  Ken Berg, Jeff and myself were not going to make it back to the States in time to vote, so we headed to the consulate.   Went through security and waited in a room that looked just like the ones back home—you know, with the plastic chairs arranged in two rows back to back.  There were lots of pictures of the President, VP, and Secretary of State, and of course the American flag.  A piece of the States right in Jerusalem!  We waited and waited and were finally helped by a sweet lady from Ft. Worth.  We wrote in our picks and were out of there.  I am hoping my vote really makes it to the States.

Thank you for your prayers for this tour.  God bless America.  God bless Israel.

Yes, I cried

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Sandra

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!

I do not know where to start.  As Murphey’s law would have it, my Blackberry was on the blink and I could not get to another computer until after the group had left Israel.

The Greek Isles of Mykonos, Rhodes, and Patmos were as gorgeous as ever. The waters were so calm, it was like not even being in a ship.  To top it off, our weather was near perfect and the site in Ephesus was a wonder. We went inside the theater where 24,000 Ephesians called out “Great is Diana” for hours.  It was a great visual of what trials Paul had to go through to get the good news out to people.

Of course, the arrival of our group to Israel was most welcome.  I always feel like I am home when we land in Tel Aviv.  Yes, I cried.  I can’t help it. I know I am in God’s country and I am blessed and humbled.

The tour went well and everyone vowed to come back to Israel as soon as they can.  It is a joy for me to see everyone’s lights come on and see the love of the Lord and of Israel.  I saw lives changed and others refreshed.

Part of the group went on to Petra and the remainder went back to the States.  Jeff and I filmed the two year-end programs on Wednesday morning at the Promenade overlooking all of Jerusalem. Talk about a back drop for filming.  We were trying to beat the rain and had almost finished the first program when it started raining.  We were trying so hard not to laugh or acknowledge the rain (you know, trying to be professionals) when Ken Berg called cut.  We all went under a tree to see if the rain would stop, and after about 30 minutes we resumed the filming and finished.  Whew!

Because I have not had a computer and I do not watch the news when I am traveling, I was a little out of touch.  I picked up my Jerusalem Post and saw that nothing has changed in the States. The news is all about the elections and the economy.

I am staying at a different hotel and am learning where to get my paper.  Just about a block from the hotel is a 24-hour store.  Really, a 24-store that is open 24-hours a day, including holidays!  What a find.

I am not staying as long as I have in the past, and so I head back to Texas on Sunday night.  Tomorrow is Shabbat and I will probably walk around with Will and some friends that have arrived early for the “Bless Israel” tour scheduled to leave the States on November 15th. I was scheduled to speak in Tampa, but the conference was postponed, so back I come to Israel on the 15th.  I am looking forward to the volunteer work we will be doing here in Israel.

Off to the ship today

Thursday, October 16th, 2008 by Sandra

Shalom from Athens!

We all arrived safe and sound and tired on Wednesday.   We dined like kings at our Athens hotel, the Divani Palace, and then crashed.

The tour of Athens yesterday was breathtaking.  The weather was perfect—around 75—and the Acropolis was as magnificent as always.  Crowded as always, also.  I think the stats are that 3000 people visit the Acropolis every day.  I heard lots of different languages, especially Russian.  After our morning touring, we all went on a walking tour of the Plaka and had lunch.  And yes, there are Americans here.  I guess with all the talk of recession, they just want to travel and spend all that money.

The group seems to be getting along and meeting with each other.  I love it when I see them praying with and for each other.  We are having some really nice fellowship.

Off to the ship today and the tour of Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos, Ephesus and finally off to Israel.

Happy birthday to my brother.  I won’t say how old he is, but he is my older brother.

Packing for days

Monday, October 13th, 2008 by Sandra

Packing, Packing, Packing… (Sung to the tune from Rawhide).  It seems like I have been packing for days and days. Finally, the bags are ready.  I get so excited thinking about going to Greece and Israel, that I will hardly sleep tonight in anticipation.

The Fall tour begins in Greece and includes Athens, a 4 day cruise to Mykonos, Rhodes, Kusadasi in Turkey (actually Ephesus) and Patmos.   The island of Patmos is gorgeous and it is where John wrote Revelation.   In reality, next to Israel, I really like Greece.  I like seeing where the “good news” spread after starting in Israel.   Athens, Ephesus, and the islands of Greece are still where they were thousands of years ago.  I like walking the sites and seeing what the first apostles might have seen—where Paul preached.  It really makes the Bible come alive.

And of course, we will be in Israel seeing the Bible sites.  Fall is a great time to go to Israel.  The weather is gorgeous with crisp, cool mornings and warm days.  We end our tour in Jordan at the site in Petra.  I am looking forward to meeting new pilgrims and seeing old friends on the tour.

Please pray for the Fall tour, for travel mercies, and for eyes and ears to hear what the Lord is leading each of us to know about Him.

Look for the blog from Greece and Israel.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Shavuot is a dairy holiday

Monday, June 23rd, 2008 by Sandra

This will be mentioned in the August Levitt Letter.  Blessings, Sandra
Because Shavuot is a dairy holiday, I would like to share a recipe for yogurt cheese. This is delicious on tuna or tomatoes, or served with pita. Add dill, parsley, black pepper, or mint to the cheese. It’s one of my favorites, from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer and Miriyam Glazer.

Yogurt Cheese

  • 1 quart plain cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk yogurt
  • Cheesecloth or muslin bag

Place a large wire-mesh strainer over a bowl. Cut 3 or 4 layers of muslin into squares, dip in cold water, wring out, and line the strainer. Spoon in the yogurt, bring up the edges of the muslin, squeeze the bottom a little to extract some of the moisture. Twist the corners of the cloth together and tie the two opposite edges into a knot.

Hang the package from the kitchen faucet for several hours or overnight, and let drip directly into a bowl at room temperature until the milk is the consistency of cream cheese. Squeeze the package gently from time to time to help it drain faster. Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and transfer to a closed container. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 1½ cups.

Though the recipe says to bring the cheese to room temperature and spread it on a plate, I prefer to serve it cold. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil, chopped olives, capers, and parsley. Enjoy!

It brings the Bible to life for them

Thursday, June 19th, 2008 by Sandra

The group left this morning at 1am headed back for the States.  There were several passengers that had planned on staying a few days after the tour and they are seeing Israel on their own.  As aways, a really great group of Believers and I will miss them. Our hotel, Prima Royale, really put on a show for our farewell dinner.  We ate on the patio and had a banquet of bar-b-que.  The weather was cool, food was good, and the fellowship was just the best.   My plane leaves tonight.

I try and ask everyone on the tour what their favorite site was in Israel.  I love the answers: Garden Tomb, Galilee boat ride, Masada, Golan and of course, Jerusalem.   The main reasons for their favorite site is that it brings the Bible to life for them.  It is hard to read about Yeshua walking on the Sea of Galilee or walk the Southern steps—the same steps Yeshua walked—and not have the Bible come to life.  I love to see the “lights” come on in the passengers hearts.  They love the Lord and they love Israel and will make great ambassadors for Israel.  

Today started out cool and rapidly got hotter.  I would guess the temperatures to be in the mid 90’s.  As I say, June is hot or hotter.

I ventured out today.   I have done just about everything in the day-to-day life in Israel, so I thought I would get my hair done.  What an experience.  There was a young lady in the two-chair shop getting her hair done for her bat mitzvah.  Her mother and younger sister were there to assist her.  The nice young man, Yoni, did a great job on me and I think it is one of the best cuts I have had in a long time.  A little shorter, but basically the same style.   When he finished, he told me I looked younger.  He knew how to get to me. 

I had to have the almond tempura one more time at Sukura, the Japanese restaurant.  It was as good as I remembered.  A wonderful way to end the day. 

Off to finish packing and then head to the airport!

I will be back in Israel, the Lord willing, in October.  Thank you for reading the blog and for your prayers.

We call them “the boys”

Monday, June 16th, 2008 by Sandra

I promised that I would try and do a little blogging while on the tour.  I did not realize just what I had promised!  But today, I will catch up some.
Today is my son, Will’s, birthday.  So, first things first:  “happy birthday!”  I have been so blessed to watch Will grow in the Lord.  It is the most important thing for a parent, knowing that their children believe in the one true God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
On that note, I will celebrate this evening with a special dinner for Will.  In our family, the birthday person, gets to pick the restaurant and/or meal of the day.  My guess is that I will also be fixing a pecan pie.  My pleasure. 
The tour has gone very well and everyone seems very happy to be in Israel. I have already heard that several people are making plans to come back in the Fall. The group is on the way to the Dead Sea and Masada.  They will “float” in the dead sea and see where the Jews took their last stand at Masada against The Romans.  
At the baptism service in the Jordan River, we had a young man accept Christ and be baptised.  It was a good day for all of us. Mike is with a group of three other guys who have been friends for over ten years, and some since college. They planned well over a year ago to be in Israel at this time.  We call them “the boys.”  Such fine men in Christ.  Just a real joy to be around them.  So to Mike’s wife, I say mazel tov!  Mike is a new creation and we will keep you both in our prayers.  This baptism was a highlight of the tour for me. 
Tomorrow is the “dig” and another exciting day in Jerusalem. We will be sifting Temple Mount debris, so I am sure that since we have already been to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount area, this will be a real visual for all of us. 

We have eaten so much dairy

Monday, June 9th, 2008 by Sandra

Shalom from a very hot Jerusalem.  I guess Summer has arrived and would guess it is in the 90’s today with a very light breeze.

Last night, Will and I went to the Western Wall to celebrate Shavuot. (The weather was warm, but bearable.)  It is one of the three holidays, that Jews gather in Jerusalem, the other two being Passover and Tabernacles.   We have also eaten so much dairy foods.   We arrived there about 7pm and sundown was about 8:30.  Very  few people were there when we got there, so we got a great spot for pictures and people watching.  About 8:30, the plaza was crowded with most people wearing white.  It was so moving to remember that the Holy Spirit was sent at Shavuot/Pentecost and I was standing in Jerusalem where it happened.

I had the best cheesecake this morning for breakfast (more dairy).  Creamy and light.  I had double portions, it was so good.  Jerusalem is quiet again for this holiday.  Most businesses are closed and the city will come alive after sundown.

The Byrd family (Randy, Debbie and Rachel) arrived safely last night and I got to visit with them today.  First on the agenda was a walk to the old city and the Western Wall.  Most  everything was closed, but we got  to walk around the Jewish Quarter and the City of David.  Lunch was at the YMCA across the street from the King
David Hotel.  We were very grateful they were open.  The food was good.  I had the tomato/mozzarella salad ( yes, dairy).  Chicken Salad, big burger and chicken strips were all good.

The tour group is on their way to Israel and I meet up with them tomorrow afternoon.  Please keep us in your prayers.

I am planning on blogging while on the tour.  Thanks for reading.

Jewish traditions abound regarding Shavuot (Pentecost)

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 by Sandra

The weather has been somewhat cooler than Thursday.  I would say in the mid 70’s to low 80’s rather than the 90 degree mark.  A gentle breeze is also here, but alas, no rain.  

Very quiet Shabbat.  I love the contrast between the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem during the week and then the quietness that comes when Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday.  All Jewish holidays and Shabbat start at sundown.   It takes me two days to finish reading the Friday Jerusalem Post, so I napped and read and visited with Will.  

I met with friends at Sakura Japanese Restaurant for my sushi fix after Shabbat.  I had some of the best tempura that I have had in a long time. They use almonds in the tempura batter.  The sushi was very fresh and the area, off Ben Yehuda, was really packed with people. Very lively. Another contrast between the Shabbat and the restarting of the week.  

I am going to the Western Wall this evening to celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost). Jewish traditions abound regarding Shavuot:  wearing white, eating sweet dairy, reading the book of Ruth, reading the Torah all night and making a pilgrimage to the Western Wall. Tradition also suggests that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on this day.

Shavuot/Pentecost is the time that the Holy Spirit was sent to us to be our comforter.  Acts 2:1 and 4, “The festival of Shavuot arrived and the believers all gathered in one place, they were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).”  This is the Jewishness of our Christian roots.    

Have a blessed Shavuot/Pentecost.

In Israel, everything is a discussion

Friday, June 6th, 2008 by Sandra

Shabbat Shalom!

It was hot yesterday. I think I heard that it topped out at around 90 degrees. I know, its a dry heat, but let me tell you, that is still hot.

Had a wonderful visit with the Immanuel Tours family. Dinner was in Tel Aviv in an area called Neve Tzedek at a continental cuisine restaurant named Dallal. I kept kidding everyone, that the name was really Dallas. We learned that the chef had just been featured on Israeli television as one of the areas brightest stars. Neve Tzedek has undergone major redevelopment in the last 15 years and is now known for its artist colonies and fine restaurants. As always with the Meyers, good fellowship and good food.

The festivities continue in Israel all this week. I thought you would find the following article interesting. I know I did.

News from Israel Today
Headline News
Thursday, June 05, 2008 Nicole Jansezian

Christian worship festival continues in Jerusalem

Fulfillment Fest, the first of its kind worship festival here in Israel, has been marking the days leading up to Pentecost on June 9 with nightly worship services at a park on the Mount of Olives.

Organizers said the purpose of the festival in Israel was the same as the first Pentecost—to wait on the Holy Spirit to come. For each of the evenings, no speaking was on the agenda, just worship.

“We’re not pretending we have an answer, that it has to be through the arts even,” one of the organizers told Israel Today. “But rather than making doctrinal statements, we’re just worshipping and inviting the Holy Spirit to come.”

Israeli and Arab worship bands joined the international line-up of worshipers. The worship tent attracted foreigners and locals alike. Shavuot, or Pentecost, is celebrated in Israel beginning Sunday night and carrying on through Monday. The festival organizers hope to see another Holy Spirit outpouring like in the Book of Acts.

Sean Feucht, who has started 24/7 worship sights around the world including in Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist nations, was one of the worship leaders at Fulfillment Fest. He said Israel’s environment is markedly different for worship, and its exactly this kind of atmosphere in which he enjoys worshiping.

“Israel is in the most intense environment in the entire world to worship in,” he said. “Every power and principality is warring for or against the return of Jesus on the earth,” he explained. “But God is so accessible and it doesn’t take much for Him to come. I love these kind of atmospheres—He has to show up, we don’t have any other choice.”

Another good night’s sleep and another good breakfast. The visitors at the B&B include mostly French and Israeli’s—always good people watching. I walked, got my paper and said my usual “boker tov‘s. It is such a good feeling to be part of the community, no matter how long the time I have in Israel.

Since Shabbat is tonight, I went to the “big” grocery store rather than the expensive corner store. I entered, a little more secure in knowing what I wanted, and that it did not require me to know a lot of Hebrew. I can identify lettuce, tomatoes, chicken, etc. Whew! Life is good. The checkout line is a whole other story. I never know if I am in the less-than-ten-items line, the only-paper-goods line, or the please-speak-English line. So, I stand in line and pray that I am okay and that I don’t create a big “American” scene by not knowing what I am doing. I don’t know what it is in Israel about grocery store checkouts, but everyone looks at their items as if they were seeing them for the first time. Each item is discussed and the price is questioned on EVERY item. I always say that in Israel, everything is a discussion. So, here, patience is a real virtue. Just a different experience than in the States. I usually stand in line, check out, say thank you and I am out the door.

The Chicken is cooking, flowers are bought, the apartment is clean, and I am ready for the greeting of Shabbat—a quiet time with our Lord. May your Shabbat be blessed.