Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Town of Jesus

I went to Israel in 2002, there was hardly anyone there. Oh, sure ... the people who live there were there. But no visitors. We kept bumping into another group of six journalists -- these being male -- but other than that ... no one.

When I returned in 2007, there were significantly more visitors. Tourism had returned to Israel, praise God!

But 2009 showed a completely different level of tourism altogether! People people everywhere! Not just one tour group, but many at most sites.

Capernaum -- the town of Jesus -- was no different.

Wait, I hear you say. Wasn't Nazareth the town of Jesus? Yes, it was ... until he began his ministry. Then, to fulfill Scripture's prophesy, he moved (See Matthew 4).

Capernaum of today is beautiful to behold. Tour groups have the option of sitting in shady gardens while hearing of Jesus' ministry and the miracles performed here. Or, they can stand along the border walls and stare out to the Sea of Galilee dancing in the day's sunlight. They can enter the church (I call it the giant spaceship that came to earth and managed to land on top of Peter's house) and worship quietly or partake of a service. Or, for a taste of what it would have been like to worship in a synagogue in Jesus' day, they can walk through the ancient White Synagogue, a fourth century structure built over the 1st century place of worship where Jesus drove out the demons plaguing a demoniac.

Okay, let me just tell it like it is. You could spend ALL DAY here. Few do, but you could. It is a worshiper's holiday. An archeologist's dream. A photographer's delight. A historian's mecca. Capernaum draws the person as a whole -- spiritually, emotionally, aesthetically. Flowers that grow in Capernaum are vivid in color, full of bloom.

If you read that line one more time, you'll get a sermon.

In 2002, after visiting Capernaum for the first time, I read in the Bible that here, when the demoniac approached him, the evil spirit cried out, "What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth?" (see Mark 1). I wrote in my journal, "Yes, Jesus. What do you want from me?"

The answer to the demonic was "Be quiet." (Although, according to Scripture, Jesus didn't say it very kindly ... to me, he whispered, "I want you to hush now ...")

I can be quiet in Capernaum.

But there's another story about Capernaum that ministered to me in 2007. Jesus and the disciples were in his town and he was asked, "What must we do to do this work of God?"

Jesus replied, "...believe ..."

I wrote in my journal. "I am asking you to believe."

In 2007, my husband and I were in a legal battle for the rights to raise a little girl. She is not a blood relative, but she'd been "ours" for a long time. We fought and fought hard -- against all odds, against what the legal eagles said was possible -- to make her "ours" legally and not just ours in our hearts. My battle in the States was near the forefront of my mind every moment of my time in Israel and so, in Capernaum, I asked, "What must we do to do the work we believe you have given us, Lord?"

Jesus whispered, "Believe."

In Capernaum, believing is easy.

In 2009 I was overwhelmed by the groups who'd made their way there. To worship. To hush. To believe.

So, Capernaum was his town. I keep trying to picture him visiting the local real estate office, shopping for just the right house ... and I wonder why we've identified the place under the Great Spaceship as Peter's house but no one has ever pointed to a cluster of stones and said, "Jesus' house." Then I remember. Jesus said if I should invite him into my heart, he would dwell there.

In Capernaum, finding Jesus' house is easy.

It stands right inside of me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coming Back to Where It All Began

I was excited to return to Tel Hazor, the place of the archeological dig in ancient Hazor. The city Joshua burned to the ground. The city Deborah and Barak later conquered. And later still, one of Solomon's cities, complete with a gate attributed to him.

Not to mention, the place where I first "fell into the Bible."

I wrote about it in my book Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel. This monumental event in my life was the starting point for my article "Falling Into The Bible" written for in 2002. This is the place where a Hebrew speaking man named Hsein el Heib whispered to me in perfect English, "You are touching the Bible." This is the place where my life changed.

Now, I get to share it with my friends.

We arrived shortly after a picnic lunch eaten in the courtyard of a small shopping strip. Most of us had falafels. I say "most of us." Robi managed to find a McDonalds, of all things. Then we piled back into the van and headed to Tel Hazor. Mr. el Heib -- who knew of our coming -- stood just outside the visitor's entrance/his office. I couldn't wait to see him again (this being our third meeting). I opened the side panel door and stepped out. "Shalom!" I said.

"Shalom, Eva!" he said back.

Photos of the reunion were snapped, and then I asked him to show my friends what he'd shown me in 2002; the wall which holds the remains of (what is believed to be) Joshua's fire.

But he was unable to walk with us. He had been in a fight with a bull, he explained, and the bull won. His foot and leg were still beat up but he would wait for us to return and speak to us more then.

We walked on. Past the old entry into the city and toward the gate near what is the old "palace."

To the wall.

Robi said, "Wait! I have to get a photo of myself with Miriam and Eva here; I've heard so much about this one spot in Israel!" And so someone took our picture. Then, each of my friends approached the wall, touched its sooty surface, and poised while I snapped their image.

I hated saying goodbye. We were so rushed; we had to move on quickly. But we said our goodbyes to Mr. el Heib (Robi made friends with his dog.), then piled back into the van so we could head to the Sea of Galilee.

We were about to run where Jesus walked!

(For the full story of what happened to me at the wall in Tel Hazor, go to: AMAZON BLOG )