Day Seven – Saturday, May 24 – SHABBAT

So that idea I had about creating a blogpost each evening to describe where we’ve been and what we’ve seen? Meshegas – craziness!

There isn’t enough time or words to begin to capture it all here. Thursday’s hike to the incredible waterfall in Ein Gedi, where David sought refuge from Saul in the caves hidden in the craggy rocks?

Or standing later that day in Qumran directly across from Cave #4 where many of the “Dead Sea” scrolls – the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century – were found?

How can I describe to you what it was like to cross into the West Bank and visit a Samaritan village (when, to be honest, I didn’t even realize there were modern-day Samaritans any longer?)

And then there were today’s explorations of Tel Hazor, the largest ancient ruin in modern Israel, and Tel Dan, where we stared in awe at a gate that existed long before Abraham (and that he and Sarah likely walked through). Mike’s photos are worth thousands of my words (and we’ll have thousands to share.)

But it was the experience yesterday at dusk that was worth every shekel spent to take this journey.

After morning visits to Caesarea Maritima and Mount Carmel, where Elijah brought down fire on the mountain, and an afternoon descending into an ancient cistern and viewing the excavations at Megiddo (the New Testament’s Armageddon), our guide commented that time and traffic wouldn’t permit an excursion into Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home. The tiny village of perhaps a couple dozen families where Mary and Joseph raised their family is now the largest town in the North District of Israel and is made up of predominantly Palestinian Arabs.

I was so disappointed I almost cried.

As some friends and family know, I had an unusual experience in 1993 when I asked the Lord to tell me in December of that year what Mary’s memories could have been beyond what we know from the gospel accounts. When the words began to come, I began to type. I spent three days listening and writing down exactly what I heard. When the stream of words ceased, I printed them out, read the “script”, and realized I had absolutely nothing to do with the writing.

It’s been over 20 years since and I’ve traveled thousands of miles for hundreds of tellings across the country.

But now, as then, I know it has never been my story – always hers alone.

So when our tour bus bypassed the turnoff for the town I have inhabited in my mind all these years, I was crushed.

But then our guide instructed the driver in Arabic to instead turn the bus up a hill called Mount Precipice just outside Nazareth– the place from which it is said the religious leaders threatened to throw Jesus after his teaching in the local synagogue so angered them. The place where his mother would have followed, trembling, terrified.

Our group tumbled from the bus and followed our guide, Yoni, to the very top. He pointed out where the original village would have been located below and the church built over the traditional site of Mary’s childhood home.

But I remember little else Yoni said, because I saw it.

The view from the other side of the hill – the one with the sheer dropoff to the south.

The terrain that Mary would have seen every time she climbed that hill.

I like to walk at dusk to the edge of the village and look at the valley spread out before me with mountains all around. As it grows dark, pinpricks of light appear below, as if the shepherds’ fires are tiny stars fallen from heaven.

To the west I can see the sun setting behind Mt. Carmel, and I picture the prophet Elijah doing battle with the prophets of Ba’al. To the east are the heights of Tabor and Gilboa. And spread out before me is the plain of Esdralon, where Deborah ruled as a mother in Israel. I learned her song as a very young girl.

And way beyond in the distance are the blue mountains of Samaria, where we are not allowed to go…

But from my hillside I sometimes think that I can see into eternity! I feel a little sorry for those who cannot see.

And late yesterday afternoon, Friday, at the start of Shabbat?

As the sun set behind Mt. Carmel to the west, and I overheard our guide point out Tabor and Gilboa to the east?

It was there, had been there all along.

I had seen it through her eyes through hundreds of tellings, and now at last I was seeing it with my own.

I feel a little sorry for those who cannot see.