Last Day in the Old City and Heading Home

By Gregor Smee

It’s our last day and it is with mixed emotion that we finish our trip. We are exhausted and ready to be back with our families. But we had a lovely time in the Old City of Jerusalem this morning.

We walked a couple blocks to the bus stop and caught #38 into the Old City. We visited a tiny museum dedicated to the ten days of war in 1948 when the Arabs drove the Jews from the Jewish Quarter. It wasn’t until the 1967 war that the Jews gained control of the Temple Mount and The Old City again. For nineteen years Jews in Israel could not access the Temple Mount or the Western Wall.

Next we shopped along the narrow streets and had cafe’ afouk (upside down coffee) and ice cream. I took lots of photos along the avenues. Then we headed over to the Western Wall. I took pictures of Tomi disappearing into the crowded women’s side until I lost her. There was also an active archeological dig going on next to the Western Wall.

Then we took a tour of the Rabbi’s Tunnel with a very good tour guide from Romania. There is a fabulous model of the Temple Mount in all its glory. The tunnel empties out into the Arab Quarter so they gave our group an armed guard front and back to escort us back to the security checkpoint into the Jewish Quarter. Finally we went to the Southern Steps and read one of the Psalms of Ascent. The group was exhausted and starving so we grabbed a couple taxis and headed back to the apartment.

While we were gone, Betsy and Jackie cleaned the apartment top to bottom including all the towels and bedding, God be praised! Now we are taking naps before loading the luggage onto the roof rack. On the way to the Tel Aviv airport we will have dinner with David and Emma Rudolph. Then it’s three hours of waiting through security and hoping that Hurricane Sandy doesn’t mess with our travel plans home. Four of our team are traveling stand-by so it’s already touch and go. So wish us “Via Con Dios!”

Post trip comments: had a wonderful dinner with the Rudolphs and their youngest son Issac. Another gifted family ministering faithfully in The Land. John Tharpe got cold and the waiter came and draped his chilly shoulders with a lovely table cloth. He asked me not to take a picture of it.

With all y’all praying for us we not only got all eight of us onto our flight, but it was redirected to Charlotte which was where we needed to go anyway, getting us home hours earlier than the original plan. After checking-in several hundred people, the girl at the US Air check-in counter smiled broadly and proclaimed, “You’re the first person today that is actually going to get to where you want to go!” Thanks for all the prayers friends. Hope many of you are able to join us in June.

Shabbat Rest, Debrief, and Ben Yehuda Street

By Gregor Smee

A short post with few photos. A rest day.

Slept in this Shabbat morning. Everyone enjoyed the slower pace. Michael and I went to the Ahavat Yeshua congregation here in Jerusalem. It was great worship but I knew ahead of time it would all be in Hebrew with no translation. Still enjoyable. They asked me not to take pictures. The chance of persecution is just too great for those risking attending a Messianic service.

Had an amazing spread of leftovers for lunch in our apartment.

This afternoon we spent about two and a half hours debriefing and discussing the trip. The tight quarters and tighter traveling conditions have forced us together in ways we never imagined. This is a team with strong personalities. But when we all got cranky and the nerves began to fray, the Lord blessed us with grace for one another and extended our capacity to laugh at ourselves. We have had some exceptional times with believers and non-believers in the land (and with each other).

Then we had the pleasure of having Malka and Ken Shostack into our apartment. Our June team had prayed for her to be healed of cancer and for her and Ken to come to know Yeshua as their Messiah. She told us how the doctors had written her off and given very little hope. But after three months of very aggressive treatments, it not only stopped the growth of the cancer but reduced the size of the various tumors 30-70%. This she attributes directly to our ongoing prayers. We finished our time with them with more prayers thanking Yeshua for his healing touch and asking that she be fully restored to physical health as well as placing complete faith in Yeshua as her Messiah.

Then we all went to spend a couple hours on Ben Yehuda Street. We had dinner in a little cool place called Alice’s Restaurant with Herzl and Dana, shopped for a little while after dinner, watched some strange dancing for a messiah named Schneerson, then said our goodbyes and headed back to our apartment. All in all, a very nice day. Sorry for the shortage of photos (and poor quality). I’ll try for more and better photos tomorrow. Good night.

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Weeds, Paint, & Spanish, The Shuk, and Lone Soldiers

By Gregor Smee

We started the day with a work project pulling weeds, painting, and playing with kids and dog. Victor and Sarah Mojica, originally from Mexico, have opened their home in Jerusalem to special needs children whose parents cannot keep them for various reasons. It was nice to speak a little Spanish since I know almost no Hebrew. Our dear friend Chaim Warshavsky arranged this work project for us, met us there, and spent a little time playing his guitar for us.

From there, dirty and tired, we headed for the Shuk (pronounced “shook”), the crazy, outdoor market, where in the last few hours before Shabbat begins, the crowds are in a frenzy to complete their shopping before all the merchants close at sundown. There was even a strange painted lady I couldn’t begin to explain.

At the Shuk we were joined by John and Tikva Ott from the King of King’s Ministry. They took us up to the Prayer Tower at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Jerusalem where we got to hear Tikva’s testimony of how she came to faith from a religious Iraqi/Jewish family. From the balcony on the top floor we prayed together for the peace of Jerusalem.

Back to the apartment to get cleaned up, then we went to have dinner with the Lone Soldiers. This ministry, called HaMiflaht, provides a place for soldiers who don’t have family or can’t get home, to come and have Shabbat dinner each week. On any given Friday evening there will be fifteen to twenty young people at Scott and Teresa Johnson’s apartment. This evening our special guest, Major General Zvi Gvati, blessed and broke the bread for our meal together. A great time of new and old friendships; pouring into the lives of young Israelis.

Back to our apartment happy and exhausted.

Worship and Teaching, Olives, Olives, Olives

By Gregor Smee

Wow, what a day. We arrived early (!) for the 8:00 AM service at Revive Israel. There were ten of us, about twenty wonderful Chinese folks and a few of the Revive faithful in the worship and teaching. Tremendous and powerful. We left with a wonderful refreshing of spirit and truth.

Then on to the olive grove, Ganei Chaim, the Garden of Life, where the income from the olive oil goes to help the ministry to battered and abused women and children. This ministry also offers the opportunity to plant a cypress tree around the olive grove in memory of an aborted child. In the last two years they have planted over one thousand trees.

Last year we were honored to pick the first fruit of these trees that had never born fruit before. We learned today that these trees usually only bear heavy fruit every other year. We thought these trees had an amazing bounty of olives last year, but this year Danny estimates that the trees are bearing between 25 and 50% more than last year!

We worked for about four hours today in two groups. Because of the amount of fruit on the trees we couldn’t finish picking very many trees. With four people working it took an hour for each tree. I think we only picked about 8 trees total (out of 150 trees). But we picked about 1000 pounds of olives! And I only fell out of the tree once. The semi-substantial branch I was standing on broke entirely off and next I knew I was on my back on the ground. Bruises and scrapes but otherwise fine and quick to get back up into the trees.

Our good friend Herzl Ein-Eli helped us pick and at the end of the day his lovely wife Dana came to say hello too. Tired and sore we headed to the grocery store for some dinner supplies, then back to the apartment to shower, eat, check e-mails and head to bed. Full day planned for tomorrow of course.