Mostly In Tel Aviv
Arriving in Tel Aviv, I for the first time felt the disappointment of not seeing my suitcase come down the shoot. I learned it wouldn't be arriving until the next day, as somehow it never made it from my connecting flight. For a moment I had the stunned feeling of not knowing what to do. It became a quick note to self to never check a bag in ever again. With my savvy (not) planning, I didn't really have addresses of where I was staying, but just directions or names of people to meet. I had to trust and move on.
Heading to the bus area I discovered the signs had no english. I think the look of lost confusion on my face told that I needed help because immediately a guy came up to help with directions. He told me directions and which buses to take and better places to exchange money than the airport (looking back, this may have been naive on my part. But I still think God was looking out for me). He even got on the bus with me to make sure I got to where I needed to be (does that happen in the U.S.?) and find the connecting bus. Talk about friendliness!
As I sat down on the bus, it slowly began to drive away. Feeling momentary relief, I looked back to the sidewalk I was just on and noticed the jacket that was tied to my bag was now laying in the street. I figured it would be warm enough without.
We stopped at a large bus terminal in the center of Tel Aviv and I again felt lost. It was a mix of a shopping mall with bus terminals. Feeling a sense of being lost, I saw some kids playing soccer in an area and decided to slow down and watch for a moment.
Finding the bus number my new friend had told me, I boarded a bus headed to my destination. Now I had to make sure I found my stop, or I would be lost. The road signs seemed hidden, or at least they're small and high up on building corners. Assuming I was on a certain street, I began noticing that the same street can change names every two blocks or so.
Where Am I?
Having the alarmed sense of "where am I?", I asked someone on the bus (the only english speaker happened to be right next to me) where to go. Thankfully I had missed my stop by just one stop and within minutes, I was walking on the street I wanted. I arrived at my temporary home named Beit Immanuel. They're a Messianic (Jewish Christians) congregation with a hostel and church in the same building. I soon was in my own room, had my own bathroom, and I was feeling pretty good. Only thing was that I still didn't have my suitcase, so I had no change of clothes, no toiletries, and so refreshing myself consisted of cold water on the face. But anyways, I was in Israel and so I was beyond content. Quickly I took a walk for dinner and exploring a bit.
A New Day
The next morning (still no suitcase), there was breakfast in the courtyard. I would have photos of the food, but at the time I didn't think it was important to show. For you foodies, it was a mix of greek yogurt, honey, and fresh fruit. I got to meet some girls who were from South Korea, touring Israel. They were pretty friendly. As much as I liked sitting around with food and new friends, I had a duty to go around town and do some pictures for Beit Immanuel and their hostel. It's a beautiful area and across the street is an old looking Lutheran Cathedral. There are even bats flying around in a tree outside.
Shortly after breakfast I took to the town and beach. Getting to see some spots I had seen on my previous tour, I was glad to get to walk at my own pace. I started in an area called Joppa (Yafo in the local tongue), which is listed as being the oldest port in the world. It was pretty quiet as I strolled around.
Let's Go Fishing
I came across some fisherman and started photographing them. One guy started talking with him and I was surprised to understand him as he spoke spanish. He was from Turkey and he told me a bit about his background, how long he had lived in Israel, and also that I should visit Turkey sometime. It was nice to be able to have somewhat of a conversation with him, even in my broken spanish.
Heading to the top of the hill, I found St. Peter's church and took time alone. This church commemorates St. Peter having come here, nearly 2000 years ago. He was shown a vision of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. It was quiet inside and I loved it. Lord, I'm here, please show me.
Moving on, I went to a nearby overlook and just enjoyed the view. The day was already getting fairly warm so I enjoyed the shade. While sitting alone for a little while, a young man showed up with a large group of women, speaking in Hebrew. They sat next to me even and one woman even leaned back against my legs. I thought it was strange, but didn't know if it was normal for this? I didn't want to be that guy. The guy started to play his guitar and they all started singing songs in Hebrew. It was fun to sit and listen. A few minutes went by and they were gone. And so was I, off to the beach below.
Beit Immanuel wanted pictures of local life, so as to advertise to interns for their hostel. It helped me get out of my shyness shell in photographing strangers. To be honest, it was fairly easy as it seemed the place was pretty and full of interesting spots. It sort of reminded me of Santa Monica, but more cleaned...no offense to Santa Monica.
After walking several miles, my feet began to hurt. My regular shoes were still in my missing suitcase, so I was wearing sandals the whole time. I made it back to the hostel in time for more pictures.The couple who run the place, they took me out for a bit for some on location photos. One of folks who run Beit Immanuel, Michaela Lazarus, is also a flutist. She performs locally in Tel Aviv and also gives lessons through the church. She drove me around for a bit and I loved not walking. Being out during sunset was a delight.
My suitcase was still M.I.A. and I was getting nervous. I would be leaving for Jerusalem the next morning, and from there I would have no way of knowing how to get it. A couple hours later, after the photo shoot, we came back and I was excited to find my bag had arrived. Oh happy day for clean clothes and shampoo! It was a good time to go sleep.
On to Jerusalem!
P.s. I know Israel and the topic of Israel are controversial. But in finding this placard, I want to take a moment and reflect on the value of human life. On all accounts, many have suffered on all sides of the controversy. Lord, please bring healing to this region, in the name and Love that Is God!