Sunday, January 30, 2011

Out of Egypt

Exodus 21:1 thru Exodus 24:18

We had our own exodus last night, following a phone call from the hotel's front desk, where we were spending a third night at the Movenpick just outside the Taba, Egyptian border.  Our conversation went something like, "we recommend you pack a bag and cross the border."  "Now?" I wanted to know, explaining we have American passports, not Israeli passports as the Hebrew-speaking woman presumed.  "You decide," she suggested, adding our Jewish surname was 'rather obvious'.

When the phone rang about 9 pm, we were not sure what to do!  We sat on the couch, where we had been glued to CNN's report of the Egyptian turmoil, and prayed. 

My husband suggested we call to see if our original rental in Eilat was available for the night.  Yuval, the owner, suggested we come right over, "in case they close the border."

Quickly our bags were packed and we checked out of the hotel, then walked ten minutes to the Egypt/Israel border crossing.

By midnight, after successfully passing through both Egyptian and Israeli customs & immigration, we hopped into a cab for the 15-minute ride to Yuval's place.  A local news reporter wanted to interview us as we crossed in to Israel - he was busy gathering the local scoop on the Egyptian riots.

Reading the portion, I can't help but love, love, love
the verse Ex. 23:20 -

"See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."

We feel safe and are heading back to Haifa tomorrow, by bus.  It is not the city where I thought we would spend the next portion of the journey, however the door is wide open.

Our landlord will be an Arab Christian couple.  The apartment came by word-of-mouth and it feels just right.  We will see it tomorrow after we finish the six-and-a-half hour bus ride north.

By the way, we DID climb the 'Moses mountain (believed to be Mount Sinai) on Wednesday...
one by camel, the other (me!) by foot....

Hussein, a Bedouin guide, carried my pack the last half of the journey & stretched out his hand during the final 750 steps.

It was hard to accept the lift and hand.  I wanted to be 'super climber' but could not have made it without his help.  The air was thin and the top was 7498 feet up.

The fire & cloud are directing us north again, where rain is falling in a 'monsoon-like' manor, according to our friends in Haifa.

Oh, and BTW, the apartment is exactly the price we originally thought we could afford. 

The internet was shut down in Egypt during our last few days there; the reason for this week's late entry.  We are grateful for almost 2 weeks on the Sinai Peninsula.  Seems the world can change so quickly!

Thank you for taking time to read Saturday Chores.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snorkeling & mountains

Saturday, January 22
Exodus 18:1 thru 20:23

Something strange and personal is happening with the Torah Portion.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know we are not on a specific schedule in Israel.

Plans for September through December, yes, we planned a bit in advance, but....

Here in Israel we are praying for direction.

So it shouldn't seem so surprising that last week's portion had the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, and that this week we have walked along the Red Sea in Eilot, Israel.

Today I snorkeled in the Red Sea IN THE SINAI!  It was one of those 'pinch me' life experiences.  "Is this really happening?" I wondered as I swam through (and in) a school of fish along the most beautiful coral reef on earth.  Did anyone on the surface hear me laugh aloud under water?

National Geographic has a dive center just 2000 meters down the beach.  Anet, the Israeli travel agent in Eilot who booked our hotel was right.  "WOW."  "Amazing!"

I was in the W.C. on the Egyption side of the border when an Immigrations officer chased me outside, with unexplained urgency.  Seems there was a 'left bag' that needed to be inspected.  As in Israel, there is tight security.  When vehicles enter the hotel gate, a guard runs a mirror along the underside of the van.  We feel safe here and are enjoying Egypt, actually surprised to be here as this leg was not expected.

Wednesday we were in Jordan, at Petra.  Who knew? 

The Portion this week has Moses up top Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.  Is it coincidence that we ended up being camped just kilometers from what Egyptians call 'Moses' mountain?  We hope to climb to the top next week.

Looking back, when we first booked time-share weeks for our trip, we had no idea our first Shabbat away from home would be on Simchat Torah, which was the first reading in the annual Torah cycle.

It seems more and more that God is leading (and protecting!) us on our journey.  Who knew?

We are ever grateful.

Moses said to the Israelites in Exodus 20:20:  "Do not be afraid, for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray."

We are not afraid, but are continually amazed.

Next week I'll let you know what happens on the mountain!

Thanks for reading Saturday Chores.

Next week: Exodus 21:1 thru 24:18

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Weeky Portion:  Exodus 13:17 thru Exodus 17:16

Kvetching, whining, complaining, whatever we call it, it's what many of us do when we are uncomfortable.  Israelite sojourners complained about safety, thirst,  hunger, thirst (again) all during the first leg
of their journey leaving Egypt.

I've been whining this week:  Constant noise, hitting my head on the bunk bed, lack of privacy and finding no control over my environment has nearly sent me over the edge.  In crazier moments I've walked out the gate here on the top of Mount Carmel and looked for a hiding place, maybe just a cup of coffee in silence.  As the Grinch complained, it's "the noise, Noise, NOISE!"  We've been sharing space here with 30 African women and children, 15 or so volunteers and staff, staying with my husband in a 16' by 16' room.

A new friend from England loaned me a book last week.  It's written by Judy Pex, who chronicles an incredible trek she made with her husband along the Israel Trail - from the southern-most city of Eilot to Mount Herman in the northeast. The couple owns a hostel in Eilot, a city on the Red Sea where my husband and I have long wanted to visit.

Monday morning, with the tension building here, I called for a reservation at their Shelter.  "Totally booked", Jeff replied to my request. "Call back in a couple of days, because we could get cancellations", he advised.

Wednesday, now desperate to move on, I got on my knees and prayed before making another phone call to Eilot.  "Let's see," said Jeff, counting aloud the room numbers and expected guests.  I'm on hold, really believing God understands how anxious I am, NEEDING some peace and quiet. 
NOW, please!

It took a few minutes, but Jeff was able to find us a room for five nights, beginning tomorrow (Sunday)!  I just about cried.  Cheering to God in thanks, I rushed to tell my husband the good news.

We are heading to Eilot tomorrow.  Six hours on the bus will take us through the Negev Desert and
to the Red Sea.

God's Torah is getting personal!

 Cloud and fire directed the Israelites to the Red Sea, then God parted the waters for them to cross. 

Five weeks of 'boot camp' - clouds and fire!  

Israel is a hard country, with tough people.

Stripped of my expectations about this leg of our journey, I'm beginning to understand what my friend predicted back in early September, when she said, "Kathryn, you will never be the same."

God has stretched and grown us in unexpected ways.  

Kvetching has happened.. 

It doesn't mean we aren't VERY grateful for new friendships, hard work, stronger faith, the journey.

God said to Moses, "Quit praying and get the people moving!"  Don't you just love that?

It's time to get moving.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thanks for reading Saturday Chores!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The chicken that fell in the well and other stories

Torah portion Exodus 10:1 thru 13:16

Over and over again as we were growing up, my father regaled my sisters and me with the true story of  'the chicken that fell in the well'.  The scene was their family farm in rural Minnesota during the 1920's. Dad had four brothers and two sisters; why he was chosen as the hero of the story probably had to do with his age and gender...

The empty well held an unfortunate hen.  So a rope was tied around the small boy's waist and he was lowered into the dark well.  Proudly, I can imagine, Dad bravely grabbed the chicken and hollered to his father at the top, "OK, you can pull me up!"  Half-way up, he discovered an egg lay at the bottom of the well.  "Lower me back down, there's an egg!"

I always liked the way the story ended.  "Bawk, bawk, thank you, thank you," squawked the hen.  Then as Dad crawled over the edge of the well, he realized the egg had broken in his pocket.

How we would laugh!  Today Dad has 10 grandchildren who know the story. I never doubted the truth of it. Each time he told it, right down to the hen clucking 'thank you', the story was always the same.

This week's portion ends with God instructing Moses:

"and in the future, when your children ask you "what is this all about?" you shall tell them, 'With mighty miracles Jehovah brought us out of Egypt from our slavery.  Pharoah wouldn't let us go, so Jehovah killed all the firstborn is a reminder that God brought us out of Egypt with great power."

The annual Passover celebration is a way to remember God's 'passing over' the doors of the Israelites who had obediently placed the blood of a lamb on their doors.  The passover story was to be retold each Spring.

The details were probably vivid and believable when retold the first few years; perhaps after the first generation who had witnessed the events died, the story became less believable.

Yesterday, during our morning meeting here, my husband told his story of coming to faith.  It is his story, one that took place over 10 years ago, during a period of great stress, and one I believe our children remember.  It's personal and real; good to recount again and again.
Many people today believe the Bible is simply a book of stories.  Today we have to accept the ancient stories on faith. It's encouraging to read them.  Year after year, the stories in the Torah become more real to me.  Brilliantly written and full of prophesy,they foreshadow events of the New Testament.

In 2011, I  challenge you to find personal meaning in the weekly portion. 

Next week:  Exodus 13:17 thru 17:16.  Check back on Saturday!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

magicians and wise men

Portion this week:  Exodus 6:2 thru 9:35

One verse really caught my attention this week.  It's the one about Pharoah's magicians giving credit to 'the finger of God', chapter 8.

Pharoah's guys performed some impressive tricks.
 They can't duplicate the trick Aaron & Moses have done, turning dust to fleas. So they explain to Pharoah,  "this was done by the finger of God."

A disgusting plague, one recounted at Passover dinners.

Speaking of, I have a couple of confessions to make:

1.  In Athens, when we visited sites of Greek gods, particularly the Acropolis and the round 'tower of the winds',....a small seed of doubt sprouted in my mind.  Questions about faith dogged me through Italy, Tunisia and into Israel, through Tel Aviv and up to Mount Carmel.  Usually confident, it DID confuse me to see tangible proof of humans worshipping other gods.  I think I've been embarrassed to admit the doubts...especially in the 'land of the God of Israel' - and through the Christmas season when it seems everyone believes.

One morning this week I was in conversation with an English volunteer.  I confessed to him my nagging unbelief, dogging along since our travels to sites in ancient Greece and Rome.  'Mike' listened, and although his faith seems strong, he didn't judge my confession.

Have I been judgemental of others who don't believe?  That's rhetorical.  Yes I have been!

Thankfully, the portion this week clarified some questions.

In the Bible, I found documentation of magic and power of 'other' gods.  Magicians recognized a mightier power when they remarked, "This is the finger of God!"  Right here on Mount Carmel, thousands of years ago, a big power showdown occurred when Elijah challenged Baal. (1Kings 18)

Baal lost.

As for my unbelief this week, it was challenged by a couple of things:  One, I admitted my shortcoming and doubt.  I'm not a super Christian, as some here in the 'land' seem to be....but I know deep down there is one true God.  It was powerful to speak my doubt out loud.  Second, I read how magicians validated the One God.

We spent New Year's eve with a family from the states.  He's a Jewish man from Long Island who, along with his wife, heard a strong call from God to move with his family to Israel.  What I appreciated most, during the evening, was his story of searching for the One God.  While it is not my story, I can tell you this much:  he questioned, looked for answers, read the book of John, and challenged God.  He made his decision and has been a strong follower since.

2.)  Here's my other confession: 

Passover Seders are not my thing.  Don't judge me on that comment just I've participated in many.  After the first one, when so much was revealed as 'new wine' - In repeated experienced I began to question the tradition of it all.  If the purpose of Passover is to remember, why not FULLY recount this week's Torah Portion?  It is a powerful story of the One God.

Speaking of Passover, in the Land of Israel, it's observed as a beginning, a New Year.
Jews also celebrate Rosh Hashana as the New Year.

Saturday we celebrated the beginning of the calendar year 2011, especially enjoyed by Russian Jews who came to Israel during the past 20 years.  They love the New Year celebration because it was one of the few holidays allowed under communism.

I am excited for 2011! 

I would like to challenge my readers to seek the one true God.  

Look with all of your heart, soul, and might.  

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer. 29:11)

Shalom!  Thank you for reading Saturday Chores!