Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Delectable Dining!

Special occasions usually require a little more consideration when choosing a restaurant, however, being unfamiliar with an area can be frustrating at such times.  Trying to pick just the "right place" to celebrate our anniversary found us driving around on a very rainy day as we passed by many familiar restaurants and chains in hopes of finding something "different". 

Spotting "Aubrey's Restaurant" up on a hillside, inspired us to take the plunge into something new.  The challenge of just finding our way through the maze of turns leading to their parking lot was daunting enough.  More challenges awaited us inside as we would soon find out. 

The menu featured lots of tantalizing descriptions with a cryptic pricing that was confusing enough to force us to ask our waitress about it.  She explained the price codes and we attempted to narrow our choices down to just one.  My Dearest went with his all-time favorite of Chicken Fingers with sides of sweet potato fries and cole slaw.  I chose an apple/chicken salad with nuts and cranberries.  Our drink of choice was iced tea and our glasses were kept full throughout the meal.

A half-loaf of bread was brought out with our tea and our food followed this quite quickly.  It's hard to have any kind of real expectations about Chicken Fingers or salad, but I must say that we were "WOWed" by the plates that were placed before us.  The plates were generously full and the food was way beyond our imaginations. 

The Chicken Fingers were lightly battered with a tempura type batter and were fresh and crispy.  The "homemade" hickory sauce added just the right touch and the sweet potato fries were wonderful.  I couldn't stop myself from stealing a few every now and then.  My salad was equally as delightful and left me with enough room to share a dessert with my Dearest. 

We finished off the meal with a Chocolate pound cake with ice cream and caramel sauce.  Sharing one provided more than enough sweetness to make both of us happy without leaving us too full to smile.  The final tab came to $45 with the tip, which was a little more than we'd thought to spend, but the meal was well worth it in our opinion. 

The service was excellent and we had most of the restaurant to ourselves which was a part of our plan.  We came well after the lunch crowd and beat the dinner rush too.  This restaurant has earned a place in our hearts and will again be considered for future special occasions.  In the end, we can say, "we're glad we came!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Deep, Deep Blue Dead Sea!

As we draw near to the end of our tour of Israel, there are still many places that we haven't seen.  This gives us plenty of excuses to find a way to come back to this country some day hopefully soon.  We know that we will be coming here to welcome our KING YESHUA some day when HE returns to this earth.  It is our hope that one way or another our return will be quick.  We fear that life away from this place will somehow pale in comparison after all that we've experienced here.

Today, I was "talking up" our Dead Sea swimming adventure as I tried to get DannyLee excited about it.  We had brought rubber swimming shoes and our bathing suits especially for this occasion.  He was going along with this idea somewhat hesitantly and I could sense his doubts about this whole thing.  As we got closer to the water, he said that we would just do some wading along the edge.  I laughed off his comment and secretly vowed to drag him in if necessary.  

No worries!  After some initial hesitation, I not only got him out into waist deep water, he even let me coat him in the black, ooey, gooey, mud that we found in potholes along the bottom of the sea.  

Here he is about 15 to 20 feet from the shore on a hidden "salt" bar doing a pretty good imitation of a "preacher".  Thanks to Rabbi Daniel, we have a picture to remember this moment by.  He was feeling pretty good about himself right about now.  It was a high point on our trip.  Soon it would be time to head back to the States and leave this all behind.  So sad........

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Walking through Yerushalyem"

The "Old City" is the centerpiece of Yerushalyem.  No trip to Israel would be complete without a tour of the "Old City", no matter which religion a person holds to or even if one holds to no religion at all.  We find ourselves in this latter group as our beliefs have moved away from the teachings and precepts of man to the Scriptures themselves as the foundation of our lives.  Our love for HIM and HIS Scriptures become our guide as we wander through the maze of this ancient city. 

Our hearts draw us through the streets as we seek the lingering traces of HIS presence in this special place that HE has claimed as HIS own.  The lines blur between the ancient and the modern and we walk on streets that we can know from the Scriptures HE walked through 2,000 years ago.  Every stone we touch could well have been a stone that felt HIS touch and we long for a glimpse of anything that HIS eyes may have seen so long ago.

There aren't many such places left among the tourist trappings laid over much of what was there in HIS day.  The closest we can come are at locations like Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives and the pools of Shiloam.  The streets no longer bear visible witness to HIS passing as the throngs of humanity that pass through this city each year seeking HIM prove. 

One part of the "Old City" draws the hearts of many as we can know that HE looked upon and perhaps touched the stones of the "Wailing Wall" where many come to pray and seek HIM.  Our many stops on this day lead us ever closer to the Kotel teasing us with tantalizing glimpses of the Plaza below.  Our main visit has been scheduled for the evening when we will enter into the tunnels beneath the Temple Mount.  Until then, the Wall must wait.  There are many other places to see first.

The IDF soldiers are happy to show off their smiling faces with these Texans.  Their presence is very much a part of Israeli life with the constant threat of their "hostile neighbors".  We welcome their presence and pray for their well-being as they stand as "watchmen (and women!) at the Wall".  DannyLee has a special place in his heart for these men.  He salutes every man that stands between good people and the enemy everywhere that we travel.  There are so few that are willing to stand up and be counted these days. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The City of our GOD - Yerushalyem!

The Scriptures have a lot to say about Yerushalyem. Writers throughout the ages have struggled to find the words to capture the essence of this city.  Words just can't convey the feelings that have come upon us at our first sight.  

As we try to take it all in, our emotions well up and overwhelm us.  More than a few tears are shed in those opening moments.  Silence seems to fill the bus or maybe I'm just to overwhelmed to hear.

Our approach is from the north and traffic is heavy as the Shabbat rush is already well underway.  Friday is the time of preparation and students are let out of school early.  People hurry from their places of work to the markets to prepare for the Shabbat meal and a welcomed time of rest.  There is no other city in the world to experience this complete focus on keeping Shabbat.  Even those that aren't religious must make some preparations for soon the markets will close.  

Our skilled bus driver, Armon, works his way through the narrow, crowded streets in order to drop us off at the entrance to a busy street market as we've arrived too late and the supermarket has already closed their doors.  People are frantically trying to finish their shopping and get home as we play "tourists" and wander about the market trying to make sense of it all.  

Fortunately, the vendors are patient as we fumble with the strange variety of coins that some of us must contend with for the first time.  U.S. dollars cause confusion for many as this is a market used primarily by the locals.  I was grateful for my many years of experience living and traveling abroad as time was short and we needed "supplies" to avoid finding ourselves hungry or thirsty during Shabbat.  (This is kind of a joke as we were extremely well-fed to the point of being over-fed throughout this trip.)  

On Saturday, we were also given a day of rest and no touring was scheduled.  It was a welcome respite from the constant on and off the bus, walk, walk, walk, of the prior days.  We enjoyed sleeping in and sampling the various dates, nuts and other dried fruits that we had found in the market.  We were finally in the midst of the city that had long occupied our thoughts and yet the view from our hotel window gave little indication that we were anywhere special.  The Old City was out of sight and what lay before us were construction sites that matched those of any city.   The streets lay quiet and nearly empty throughout the day.  Sundown would come at it's own pace in this holy place and life would soon resume. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's the "DAY" and it's up to Yerushalyem!

With going up to Yerushalyem having been at the center of our thoughts, there was one particular lunch break that stood out way beyond every other stop so far. The name "Genesis Land" was on the schedule all the while, but it hadn't garnered any particular attention on our part.  The most I knew of this event was that it involved camels.  Boy, were we in for a big surprise!  

This is "Abraham" standing here in front of "Genesis Land" with DannyLee.  That big smile on DannyLee's face went along with the fun he had riding one of Abraham's camels.  Good thing he was wearing his cowboy hat today!  (Now where did I leave those cowboy boots.................)

Now DannyLee didn't actually get to sit in the "driver's seat", but I'm not sure that Henry was really in control either.  I think the camel appears to be pretty confident that he has the upper hand in all of this.  I opted out of this particular part of this adventure.  After a long and tedious ride through a rough jungle on an elephant, I've pretty much sworn off on such novelties.  It's just not that much fun.  DannyLee liked it though and it was only a preview of what would come next ---- LUNCH!!

The camel's led us quite a distance from the modern trappings of our tour bus into a setting that could well have been the surroundings of Abraham and Sarah's day.  While there were plenty of intrusions from the modern world to steal away from this magical event, there was enough theatrics to keep us drawn  in fully to the moment.  Abraham made frequent appearances to keep tabs on his "servants" and the food that crowded our little tables and filled our tummies.  His commentary interwoven with the meal was a constant delight and his British accent did not cause us any confusion.  His persona was excellent and he was a gracious and generous host in the nature of the hospitality long attributed to Abraham in the Scriptures.  

We were served a delightful meal with chicken, kabobs, dates, lots of warm, fresh pita bread and a large variety of hummus and other spreads.  Empty bowls were quickly refilled until we all left the tables with lots of groans and moans and only a part of them could be attributed to our aching knees.  This was one meal that deserved the extra effort of reclining on the ground.  I'm sure we'd have done better if this was more typical.

At the end of this meal, we climbed back on the bus with mixed feelings.  Leaving the hospitality of Abraham was sad, but Yerushalyem lay before us and it was time to get to the "Heart" of this Land.  There was nothing more to stand between us and the Holy City except a short bus ride.  Our hearts turned toward the place that we know as the City of our GOD - YHVH ELOHIM despite the world's efforts to make it into something else.  It seemed as if the bus was somehow quieter as we recovered from our generous meal or perhaps sank deep into consideration of what lay before us --- the City of David!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 Days to Yerushalyem!!

One of the major downsides of taking a tour anywhere is the rush from one site to another with little opportunity to have any meaningful interaction with the local people.  DannyLee's cowboy hat and tzit tzit's attracted plenty of commentary and laughs with the men of Israel, but my heart always leans towards the children.  

Children in Israel are carefully protected and watched over due to the unusual level of threat that goes along with their daily lives.  School groups are given priority at every historical location as they pursue the study of their Land and history.  Their laughter and chatter filled the air around us as did the staggering overload of perfumes favored by teenagers the world over.  I soon found myself sidelined by the simple need to breath amidst all this aroma.

Today we shared the trail around Tel Dan with some very large groups.  Forced to stop to catch my breath, we found ourselves being approached by a small contingent of straggling students.  They had been playing in the nearby streams on their way to the area occupied by their teachers.  The opportunity to practice a little English was too tempting for some to pass up.  Mr. "Brazil" and Mr. "Nirvana" were the leaders of their little band and it appeared the most confident in their language abilities.  Their first question to us broke my heart.

I've spent many years traveling around the world and have interacted with children in many countries.  Their insatiable curiosity always produces a wide variety of questions.  I'm sure that I've been asked similar questions in such circumstances, but their opening question struck a profound note in a Land where they find the hatred and contempt of the whole World directed towards them.  

Their first question to us was, "Do you love Israel?"  After assuring them repeatedly of our love and deep concern for the well-being of Israel, the entire atmosphere around us went from somewhat tense on their part to completely joyful and celebratory.  The small blessing of being able to see the joy that lit their faces was uncontainable and my heart will forever by touched by that particular moment on our trip. 

Yerushalyem would wait for another day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

3 Days to Yerushalyem!

The "shrinking" Sea of Galilee is a major concern in the Land of Israel.  It supplies a significant amount of their drinking water as well as water for agriculture which is a staple in their economic stability.  Constant prayer requests go up on behalf of this particular body of water.  All of the feeder streams that should be alleviating some of this problem are being diverted or drained long before they reach the Sea.  This is supposed to be the time of the year with abundant rains.  As the recent fire clearly shows, rain has long been absent from this Land and the outlook is grim.  More than once, rain was predicted on various days of our tour.  No rain ever really materialized.

This part of our tour is particularly uplifting as it's clear from Scripture that this is the place where Yeshua grew up and spent a great deal of HIS ministry time.  HIS talmidin (disciples) were also from this area and we were able to visit places like Capernaum that are mentioned in the Brit Hadashah (New Testament) and see the ruins of Peter's house.  The 2,000 years between our lives and theirs melts away as we walk in the places where they walked and see the things that they saw in their day.  While Yerushalyem is the centerpiece of this Land, it is here in the north where it all began for us, HIS modern day followers. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

4 Days to Yerushalyem!

Early this morning, we got on back on the bus and headed north.  Our one night at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv had passed pleasantly enough.  It was time to hit the road, a routine that's more than familiar to us.  Traffic in Israel despite the high cost of owning a car was not for the faint of heart.  We were glad not to be the one in the driver's seat.  

That would be Armon below and he was a wonder as he manuevered his great big beautiful bus along streets and byways that we would tremble at driving with just our pick-up.  The thought of trying to keep our Big Horn moving along those same streets gave us the shivers.  Again and again we had to acknowledge Armon's superior driving skills as he appeared undaunted with the challenges he faced moment by moment.  DannyLee's hat was off to him!

We spent much of this day touring Caesarea which hosts the only golf course to grace the Land of Israel.  (GASPS!!)  The ruins of Herod's palace and this great seaport are surrounded by a modern community that looks very much like a retirement community you'd find anywhere in Arizona or Florida.  The cost of living in this place was well beyond our imaginations.  DannyLee had to put aside any thoughts of teeing off on these greens for now, but we're confident that we'll be back someday and he'll be ready then. 

Our tour of the Haifa area took us through the lush green forests on Mount Carmel that have now been reduced to ashes much to our grief and dismay.  The drought conditions throughout the Land were evident as we traveled about, but no where was it more evident than in the north.  As one of our fellow travelers said in a recent e-mail, our hearts are deeply saddened by this tragedy.  

After several stops in the Haifa/Mount Carmel area, we headed for Tiberius to the next hotel on our itinerary - the Leonardo Club Hotel.  So far our plans to keep our luggage light by carrying the minimum amount of clothing and doing a little laundry every day was working out.  Our biggest advantage was having access to a small balcony at every hotel.  It never took more than a night to dry anything.  Clean underwear is a must! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

5 Days to Yerushalyem!

We landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv early in the morning - Israel's morning!  That might not seem like a problem except we got on the plane on a "New York" morning and spent our "day" eating, socializing, and watching movies on the flight.  Now it was "morning" again and we had a long day of touring ahead of us.  Hmmmm.................

The first day of our tour began in Tel Aviv with only a few stops to enjoy before we dragged into our hotel.  We had great hopes that our enthusiasm and excitement over finally being in the Land would be enough to carry us through.  I'd like to say that it worked out quite well, but there's a point where age becomes a factor in the equation and it seems that we've both reached that point.  Oh well.

A late afternoon nap and a nice dinner revived us enough for us to make a cursory exploration of the Tel Aviv beachfront that evening.  There's no finer place to take a walk than along the Med in Tel Aviv.  There were many different kinds of people walking, exercising, biking or just sitting and talking.  There's something unique about life in Tel Aviv that makes it seem apart from the rest of Israel.  Part of that may be because Tel Aviv is a modern city in comparison to places like Yerushalyem.  You don't see that same blend of the ancient and the modern until you get to Jaffa. 

All of our pictures are available for view under "LIJIT SEARCH" "MY CONTENT" below on the left.  Our countdown continues!

(By the way, I AM in these pictures.  I'm the one "behind" the camera!  ;>))

Sunday, November 7, 2010

6 Days to Yerushalyem!

 Our first big hurdle on this journey would be the drive into Newark, New Jersey.  Being familiar with the East coast and East coast drivers only by reputation, didn't inspire in us a whole lot of confidence.  Having maps and directions given from every possible avenue of approach did little to ease our concerns.  Having been "hoodwinked" on more than one occasion by Yahoo maps, we drove towards our destination with some anxiety.  

Our fears were quickly realized as we found ourselves driving down this long street with a concrete barrier solidly down the middle.  One block, two blocks, three blocks, coming into miles, our tension increased as we saw ourselves moving away from our intended stopping point - Wyndham Gardens with no way to turn around.  This was not going our way at all.  Finally a turnoff appeared that would allow us to turn back.  Sighs of relief all around!

We finally reached our hotel with only a slight detour to cause us some concern.  Our travel plans required us to be at the airport early on Sunday morning so a night of rest was clearly in order.  On top of getting a welcome respite from our long drive, Wyndham Gardens offered a great deal on the internet with 14 days of free parking with a one night stay at their hotel.  

Earlier, I had booked in with a long-term parking lot that was going to cost us about $120 and we still needed a place to sleep for the night.  Changing that deal for the Wyndham offer only cost us $102 for a night in their hotel and we were able to leave our truck in their secured parking lot for free while we were in Israel.  This was definitely a far better option!

Our spirits were lifted each time the thought came to us that now we were even closer to our ultimate destination and there are only 6 more days until we reach Yerushalyem!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

7 Days to Yerushalyem (Jerusalem)!!

 After spending most of the year 2010 watching for the events that would signify that we have entered into the final seven years before the return of our Messiah, Yeshua Hamaschiach, we found ourselves on the road heading east without our rig (or our dog).  Our countdown had suddenly skipped forward and we were now only 7 days away from Jerusalem.  To say that we were excited would be an understatement at best.  This would be my second trip to the Promised Land and DannyLee's first.

Our long drive from Tennessee to New Jersey to catch our flight made us glad that we had left our rig safely tucked away.  Traffic was heavy throughout much of our journey.  The heavy rain at times forced us to slow down.  We were glad that we weren't trying to make this drive from Texas.  Even cutting this drive into two days left us with many hours of intense driving.  
(If you click on this picture, it will get bigger.)

In Virginia, we were delighted to find this little tribute to The Crooked Road Music Trail.  No "Johnny Cash" fan can ever separate from him the influence of The Carter Family and his deep and abiding love for his beloved "June Carter".  We were sorry that we didn't have more time to explore the "Crooked Road", but planes don't wait for people like us!

Our countdown has officially begun!