How often do you expect to find yourself down on the floor of the plane, crouched next to a Hasidic woman who has misplaced her shoe over the course of the 11 hour flight? Well, I had a flashlight handy and she needed that shoe to get off the plane! And we found it. But it was the first time in my life that I also felt like I was in the clear minority. The plane was packed with Hasidic families, the men wearing their hats and earlocks, and the women wearing conservative wigs and hats. That's right, wigs. At the beginning of the flight they all disappeared, one after another, into the plane's restroom to remove their wigs for the duration of the flight. They kept their heads completely covered with woolen slouchy hats once the wigs came off. The hats the men wore had special carry-on boxes shaped exactly like the hats to store them in while the men travelled.
I knew by the people on the plane that this was going to be a different trip. Apparently just 2% of the entire population of 8 million people in Israel are Christians. I've never been part of such a clear minority of people.
Our first group meeting was held in the hotel's synagogue. What hotel has any kind of room for religious expression, much less a synagogue? Judaism is part of the air people breathe here, and the rich traditions will carry me back to the time when Jesus lived, worshipped and studied here.
We are staying at a hotel on a bluff above the Mediterranean Sea and I have opened the glass doors overlooking the Sea just a crack to hear the powerful sound of the water rushing to collide with the bluff. (It is also helping us to get rid of some of the stifling heat in this room. We cannot figure out how to make the thermostat work!)
We had an amazing meal tonight of fresh, cut vegetables, copious amounts of hummus, tahini, baba ganoush, and a lively quince salsa that was a brilliant yellow and had a taste to equal the color.
Tomorrow we travel to Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel (or Megiddo depending on the weather--it's gray and rainy today), and NAZARETH!! We will then stay by the Sea of Galilee for 2 days, and, as a woman told me this past Sunday at church, while much has changed since Jesus walked the earth, the Sea of Galilee Is the same as it was then. Imagine that.
I will continue to pray for all of you throughout my trip. Not sure how much internet I'll have, but I will try to post.