Here we are in the HOT Holy Land. Yes, indeed, it is hot. Yesterday, we journeyed to the Judean desert next to the Dead Sea, and it was about 115 degrees. Today, we visited the area around the Sea of Galilee, and I was sure it would be much cooler. I was wrong. It must’ve been at least 100 degrees with sweltering, heavy winds. I must admit, I am not thrilled about the weather. Luckily, there are plenty of other things to be thrilled about:
1. Delicious homemade hummus...at every meal
2. Unusual outings such as floating in the Dead Sea
It was salty, nasty, and desolate--but still pretty cool to float in. I guess the water is so salty and full of minerals that if you swallow it, your throat will swell shut and you could die. Unwilling to risk such an unpleasant demise, I kept my mouth shut tight...except for an occasional smile to my dad who was onshore with the camera. (He was a wimp and only stayed in the water for about a minute.)
3. Spiritually uplifting outings such as wading in the headwaters of the River Jordan, boating on the Sea of Galilee, and reading scriptures on the Mount of the Beatitudes
It has been an incredible experience to actually see the places where Christ lived, taught, and walked. It has made the scriptures much more “real” in a lot of ways, now that I can picture where and how the events took place. Our guide is a Jewish Mormon, and with his insights on Jewish religious traditions, stories in the Bible take on new, deeper meaning. Plus, he’s able to explain how Christianity “fulfilled” Judaism (Matt. 5:17) and how the two are much more closely connected than I had ever previously thought.
Headwaters of the Jordan River
"The tempest is raging" on the Sea of Galilee...
not really, but it was pretty windy and choppy on our boat ride and, thus, we look less than stellar.
Mount of the Beatitudes--a lovely garden and Catholic church
overlooking the Sea of Galilee commemorate the spot
4. Spending time with my goofy Dad
We ate a fish at lunch today called St. Peter’s fish, which is only found in the Sea of Galilee. It’s name refers to a verse in the New Testament (Matt. 17:27) in which Jesus instructed Peter to catch a fish and then look in its mouth to find the shekel that they needed to pay the temple tax. At the restaurant, some people were served fishes that actually had shekels stuck in their mouths. Dad wasn’t so lucky, but he still seemed pretty excited about his smiling fish friend. SICK. I opted for chicken.
5. Quirky people in our tour group
The beauty of tour groups, in my opinion, is that you get to meet interesting, nutty people from all over the country. We have a really fun group of 12 wonderful people, and many of them just crack me up. I love the Parrotts, an older couple from Georgia that are cute as can be. (The husband is always calling his wife “my love” or “my dear.”) I also quite enjoy Mary, a daffy middle-aged mom who reminds me of my crazy aunt Merlene because she is always shouting out in excitement, telling animated stories, and getting the gossip on everyone’s lives. And my favorite pair of all is...THE DEDOS.
Dedo, in my family, is a code word for “delightful dork.” If you have ever heard us call you a “dedo,” do not be offended...in the Westover family, “dedos” are held in the highest regard, and we mean it as nothing but a compliment. A dedo is someone who is delightfully unaffected by social expectations--and just goes around making the world a happier place for all of us.
We have two such people on our tour--and they are brothers. One just graduated from college, and the other just graduated from high school. From the beginning, we suspected that they might be dedos, but this suspicion was confirmed on Sunday morning when the older brother emerged for the day wearing...church clothes. You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal? Church clothes on Sunday...that doesn’t seem too out-of-the-ordinary.” Well, you have to remember that, in Israel, the Sabbath is on Saturday. So most people, even some Christian congregations, go to church on Saturday because Sunday is the first day of the work week. Dedo #1 (can’t reveal names in case he’s someone’s cousin) knew this, but he declared that he just “could not feel comfortable wearing normal clothes on a Sunday.” My dad and I looked at each other and grinned.
Well, it got better: Sunday’s journey was to a ruin on a plateau in the middle of the Judean desert..and, as I mentioned, it was 115 degrees. So there was this poor fellow, hiking through the dusty ruins wearing his black church pants, polished black shoes, and white collared shirt. He must have been melting!
Can you imagine church clothes in this terrain??
Then, when we went to the Dead Sea, he slung his church pants and collared shirt over his arm and tromped down to the shore wearing his swim trunks...and his black church shoes! Again, my dad and I couldn’t help but grin
I absolutely love people like this. DE-LIGHT-FUL. Doing what they think is right...and they don’t care what other people think.
As you can tell, we are having a great time, learning a lot, and having a few good chuckles.
Moral of the story: DO come to Israel, but DO NOT come in July! :)
Stay tuned...more to come...and perhaps some scriptural insights, not just fun stories...