Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Israel

We had a very good Sunday this time. The last one hadn't been very good. We were in Jerusalem at that time. In the morning we had gone to the service of the Church of Scotland, but it could have been Anglican for all we know. We still don't know what the minister "preached" about. But we met a guy from Pennsylvania who had been touched by the gospel. He was studying Biblical languages and was in Jerusalem for a semester.

It's not that we hadn't looked, it's simply extremely hard to find a church who has a service on Sunday. Sunday is really the first day of the week here, and everyone works. The Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, is the day of rest, and in Jerusalem at least it's a day of rest that surpasses that found in Urk (perhaps not that in Staphorst, not having been there I do not know). Churches therefore tend to have their services on Friday night (the beginning of the Sabbath) or on Saturday. Having services on Sunday morning is hard. One should have been in Israel to understand that. Even Sunday night is already had, as it appears people here work very long hours, with little time for their family. Observing the day of rest on Sundays requires great sacrifices.

In the evening we had gone to a Messianic church. There wasn't really a sermon. The sermon was about their mission statement. I found the message had merit (Ida didn't), but the Bible was only used to support their mission statement. And it was charismatic. Most of the time of worship was taken up by the band. Unlike the Church of Scotland the songs were taken mostly from the Bible, but tend to be shallow. Praise God we sing psalms. It's just something you cannot really express, but singing something where you don't have to doubt it is true, nor singing something where things are left out, is priceless. God ordained the psalms to be sung and for a very, very good reason.

But anyway, back to our Sunday in Jaffa. There were no services in the morning, for reasons detailed above: there wouldn't be any churchgoers. So we continued listening to Joel Beeke (we're following his sermons on Genesis).

At 1.30pm we were picked up by Rev. J. Golby. We had met him already the evening before when he had picked us up to talk about the work he does in Israel. He currently is working on improving the Delitzch translation, the translation of the New Testament in Hebrew. We got a good impmression of what is going on with that. Invaluable work really. Previously he was involved with the translation of the Westminster confession into Hebrew.

As he was wondering how we would cope with the Sunday in our hostel, he invited us to his home on Sunday again to have lunch and spend the afternoon there. Very, very kind. He prepared lunch, meat and meshed potatoes, quite good excellent. I think his wife, currently in Scotland, would be surprised he could cook this well :-)

He had also invited a Baptist minister, Tom, he knew quite well. We had family worship after lunch, the first for our Baptist minister. It is just so nice to be among like-minded people in Israel.

In the afternoon we could read from his library, while he prepared further for the sermon that night. He gave me a copy of Wilhelmus's à Brakels The Christian’s Reasonable Service. It's frankly chills ones spine to read what Wilhelmus wrote about the future of Israel. Just based on Biblical texts he wrote what woudl happen, what we can see with our own eyes today. For example that Israel would become a nation again. Something impossible in the 17th century, a fact today. Jerusalem would be a big city, sprawling over the hills, as we have seen with our own eyes, as per Zacharia 2:4: "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein."

How would Zacharia have known? Today, Jerusalem is bigger then ever before, it sprawls over the hills, at 700,000 inhabitants. And there are many more such prophecies. People before 1948 would have to take it for faith that Israel would be a nation again. It simply was unthinkable, but they still believed it would happen. And we live in the days where these prophecies are fulfilled. Are the prophecies that Israel will recognise the Messiah less improbable?

Or take Amos 9:11: "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:" And so we have seen the old places rebuilt. See also this list of prophecies.

In the evening Rev. Goldby conducted the service in a run-down building in Jaffa. We met Sasha there, a Jew who came to Israel from the Ukraine in the beginning of the 90s. He came by boat, chartered by Christians. He told us that sailing over the Black Sea, at night, he opened the Holy Scriptures at random and read Jeremiah 31:8-9: "Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth ... I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble".

We also met Yuri, a veteran of the Afghanistan war. The desperation that came upon soldiers there, caused many to question their eternal destiny.

I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but we have met a suprising number of believing Jews. Also Mr. Godlby told us of his encounters with Jews who were secret believers. It seems entirely possible that the conversion of Israel will be unexpectedly swift. May that day came hastily.

It's clear Mr. Goldby is doing very important work here. We're not sure he will stay much longer in Israel, but a presence of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland here in Israel seems very important to us. We're glad to have had the opportunity to be present in this country and to have seen the fulfilment and fulfilling of prophecy.

Zondag in Jaffa

Ds. Goldby van de Schotse Free Presbyterian Church woont op dit moment in Jaffa, voorheen is hij 4 jaar in Jeruzalem geweest. Hij werkt aan de vertaling van de Hebreeuwse Bijbel en is bezig met de Westminster Confessie. Het is verschrikkelijk moeilijk om hier zondagse kerkdiensten te beginnen. Zondag is een normale werkdag in Israel, de mensen hebben vrijdag en zaterdag vrij. Er zijn verschillende Messiasbelijdende gemeenten, maar zover ik weet hebben de allemaal kerkdiensten op zaterdag en op  zondagavond. Mr. Goldby hield 2 diensten op zondag toen hij in Jeruzalem was, maar daar had hij vaak toeristen. Hier in Jaffa komt er niemand sochtends, dus heeft hij 1 dienst op zondagavond. Hij kwam ons zaterdag aan het eind van de middag ophalen. Zijn vrouw en dochter waren helaas in Schotland. Maar we werden hartelijk onthaald. Kregen lekker wat te eten en te drinken.

Zondag, begin van de middag kwam hij ons weer ophalen. We hebben de zondagmiddag in zijn flat doorgebracht, samen met een vriend van hem: Tom. Tom is ds. in de Reformed Baptist Church en ze werken veel samen in verschillende projecten. Ds. Goldby heeft zelfs nog een hele maaltijd gekookt: Casserole met aardappelpuree, worteltjes en erwtjes. Met ijs na!

Savonds naar de kerk geweest, waar Tom was en nog 2 Russische Joden: Yuri en Sasha. De dienst werd vertaald in het russisch. Het is verschrikkelijk moeilijk om het Evangelie hier in Israel te brengen. Vooral de orthodoxe Joden zijn zeer vijandig. Pakketjes worden bezorgd met een bom erin of als je ondernemer bent nemen ze je vergunning af. Toch heeft ds. Goldby vrienden onder hen. Hij ging regelmatig naar de synagoge en is in gesprek met Joodse Rabbies. Sommige van deze mensen zijn in het geheim Christenen. Maar ze zijn erg bang. Maar de ds. vermoedt dat er veel meer zijn dan wij denken. 

Slapen in Jaffa

In Jaffa ( het voormalig Joppe waar Jona een schip nam en waar later ook Petrus bij Simon de Lederbereider was en het visioen met de onreine dieren zag) hadden we een jeugdherberg geboekt. Het was niet de beste plek, maar wel goedkoop en een goede locatie vlakbij het strand en bakker/eettentjes. Ze hadden een kamer voor 3  personen. De jongens mochten op het dag slapen! Een heel avontuur voor ze, het hele platte dak lag voor met matrassen. Waarschijnlijk hebben ze beter geslapen dan wij. Onze kamer grensde aan 3 straten en het was extreem lawaaiig gedurende de nacht. Sirenes gingen af, jongelui met keiharde muziek reden door de straat. Maar ja, we hebben het 3  nachten volgehouden. Auke en Dieuwe moesten de eerste 2 nachten nog naar beneden vluchten, want de eerste tropische regenbuien hadden gearriveerd..........Auke is ergens op een bank gaan slapen en had verder nergens last van. Dieuwe heeft ergens 15 min. geschuild en z'n matrasje onder een afdakje gelegd. Daarna heeft hij weer verder op het dak geslapen.

Overdag in Joppe rondgelopen, Falafel gegeten en naar het strand geweest.

de Karmel

Vanaf Dan door de Golan gereden en door de heuvels van Naftali. Richting de Middelandse zee. In Haifa hadden we een pension geboekt bij een Messias belijdende Jodin. Het bleek dat we gewoon in haar huis logeerden en zij had maar een klein kamertje voor haarzelf. Haifa is een moderne stad, gebouwd op de Karmel.  De Karmel was de reden dat we hier naar toe wilden. We zijn naar de plaatst gereden in het Karmel gebergte waar volgens de overleveringen Elia en de Baalpriesters waren om te offeren. Op die plaats is een klooster gebouwd, wat gesloten was toen we er kwamen. Hoe dan ook, we hebben de Karmel gezien, vanaf daar keken we de vlakte van Jisreel over en aan de andere kant de Middelandse Zee.

Smiddags lekker in de Middelandse Zee gezwommen. Heerlijk warm water en prachtige stranden met mooie grasvelden.

Het was Rosh Hashanna die dag. Het Joodse Nieuw Jaar. Onze gastvrouw ging uit eten en wij mochten haar keuken gebruiken. Ook had ze appels en honing klaargezet: een traditie om een zoet-goed nieuw jaar te wensen. Dat was extra leuk voor ons, omdat het ook de vooravond van ons 18-jarig huwelijk was!

Van Dan naar Berseba

Vanaf Tiberias naar Dan gereden. Israel is maar een klein landje, dus je hoeft nooit ver te rijden. Dan ligt in het Noordelijke punt. In de Bijbel was het al de grens van Israel met Libanon. En Israel liep van Dan tot Berseba. 2 dagen later wilden we naar Berseba, zodat we een goed idee hebben hoe het zit met afstanden en landsgrenzen. Dan ligt aan de voet van de  Hermon en is nu een Natianaal Park. Erg mooi met veel bomen en waterstromen. De Jordaan heeft hier ook z'n oorsprong. We hebben 2 van de bronnen gezien, verderop in het park vormen ze samen de Jordaan.

Dan was ook de plaats waar Jerobeam het gouden kalf had en de 'tempel'. Hier was nog aardig wat van over. Je kon goed de hoogten zien waar de restanten van de offerplaatsen nog zichbaar waren. Vanaf hier hadden we ook een mooi uitzicht over Libanon en Syrie.

Verderop kwamen we  nog een heel mooi bewaard stuk muur met een poort. Het kan zijn dat Abraham hier gezeten heeft. Dan lijkt nog een van de weinige originele plaatsen te zijn waar geen Roomse kerk of andere dingen over gebouwd zijn.

Meer van Galilea

Ik loop een beetje achter met m'n Nederlandse verhalen. Maar gelukkig kan bijna iedereen de engelse ook volgen.

Na Jerusalem zijn we richting het Meer van Galilea gegaan. Gereden door de Jordaan vallei richting Noorden. Het is ongeveer 2 uur van Jerusalem naar Tiberias. We verbleven in Arbel, een dorpje in de bergen 2km. van Tiberias.

Rond het meer gereden, af en toe gestopt bij plaatsen als Magdale (waar Maria Magdalena vandaan kwam) Er zijn echt alleen nog maar ruines over van de meeste Bijbelse plaatsen. Of er is een nieuwe stad/dorp naast gebouwd. Kapernaum is nog redelijk goed te zien. Er staat een synagoge en nog wat huis-resten.  Vlakbij Kapernaum is ook de berg van de Zaligsprekingen. Je kan je het heel goed voorstellen: een wat komvormige heuvel die vanaf het water een soort amfitheater vormt, waardoor het geluid goed overkomt. Het is ook mooi om te zien wat de afstanden ongeveer zijn. En dat je de overkant van het meer goed kunt zien. Het is mooi blauw en heel rustig.

Vlakbij Kapernaum naar het strand geweest. Lekker gezwommen (het is het laagst gelegen zoetwatermeer - 200 m. onder zeeniveau) Water is net een warm bad.

Rond het meer gereden naar de overkant waar het vroegere Gadare heeft gelegen. Het water was hier een stuk ruiger. Het kan idd. flink stormen op dit meer, alhoewel de temp. nog steeds in de 30 blijft....Je kon de kloven en gaten goed zien in de rotsen en kan je goed voorstellen hoe die door de duivel bezetene hier leefde.

 

Jaffa (Joppa)

Jaffa itself is very small, and not very interesting. In the KJV it is known as Joppa. The haven Jonah went to flee as far as possible from Nineveh.

In the New Testament we read about it as the location of the house of Simon, a tanner, where the servants of Cornelius found Peter.

And this is the roof of the house. We couldn't get any closer, as it appears to be a private home.

The modern harbour of Jaffa.

And then something that's not in the book, the school where Rev. Golby's daughter went. For those reading this who do not know Mr. Golby, he is a minister from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, ministering in Israel. I will do a separate post on his work here in Israel.

Old Jaffa Hostel

Our hostel in Jaffa, the Old Jaffa Hostel. The worst place we've been so far, very noisy, too hot for me at night, and no airconditioning. On the other hand, staff was very friendly, and it was very clean. Toilet facilities were ok. Showers were split in male/female, but had no privacy. In the men's one it was basically army style.

Here the building from the side. We were sleeping in the top room:

Or sleep: sometimes. As you can see it's surrounded by three streets, not very busy, but you have those kids with enormously loud speakers who tend to come down at 3am or so, and just shake you awake. Just a lot of noise. And it's hot, no airconditioning.

Auke and Dieuwe slept even more interesting: on the roof.

There were no more rooms, and for the noise it didn't matter. Perhaps even cooler outside. The only problem was that at 7pm the rain started to poor, so they had to run inside. So they didn't get a lot of sleep either.

So we didn't do a lot in Jaffa. It's basically a suburb of Tel Aviv, a modern city, and Jaffa itself is very small. Dinner on Saturday night was very simple as well: a hot dog. But a big one :-) Here Auke and Dieuwe eating one while looking over the beaches and the Mediterranean.

In Singapore

We're now in Singapore. Took a while before I could get an internet connection. No usuable wireless at our "hotel", and the $18 SGD (same as NZD, so $18 NZD) M1 SIM card I was sold, wasn't the right one. So today, Friday 25 September, I went to the closest M1 shop on foot, 1.9km from our hostel. Ida and AnneRoos where shopping, and Auke and Dieuwe were looking for a wii and going to Sentosa island afterward.

At the M1 shop they sold me the proper threeday mobile broadband card, another $18, but was unusably slow. Luckily I tested it out at a cafe near them, and I had just enough bandwidth to access Google to access a post by a guy who also had bad experience and suggested SingTel and mentioned the SingTel shop was oppose the M1. So I bought another three-day broadband SIM card, and that one was fine. Just downloading a video at 170KB/s, so that's good.

Now on getting the backlog of posts on Israel done.

Back in Cairo

And then we were back in Cairo.

In Amman

We just landed in Amman. Have to wait 4.5 hrs for our flight to Cairo.

Ben Gurion airport

We're now at the airport, waiting to board our plane to Amman (Jordan). From there we will fly to Cairo.

The $2700 mistake

On Saturday we left our B&B in Haifa very early, at 8:10am. The goal was to get to the Egyptian consulate in Tel Aviv to get a visa to pass the Taba border. It seems you can't get it at the border itself. We had called the consulate before, but they don't speak English, just kept saying Visa 9am to 11am. We first understood this meant to call between that times, but when calling between 9am and 11am a second time we understood we had to be there in person. We asked about opening times, they were closed on Fridays they said, but open in Saturday.

When we were that at about 9.30am, the consulate was closed. There was an intercom outside, which answered. But the person told it they were closed! And wouldn't reopen till Wednesday!! And we needed to have a visa before Tuesday.

So after some research we were left with no other option than to buy tickets to fly from Tel Aviv to Cairo at 241 EUR a person as we have to be in Cairo on Wednesday for our flight to Singapore. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Not a good start of a sweet year.

So instead of taking the bus back through the Sinai desert, we'll be flying to Jordan, and them from Jordan to Cairo. A 7 hour trip as well.

Haifa

We were actually quite tired from the previous day, the heat was on again, and both Ida and I hadn't slept that much. So not too much on for today, Friday September 18. First we went to the top of Baha'i Gardens, from where you have a good overview of the North East of the city.

We didn't enter the gardens (all costs money), but it's clearly a garden where a lot of money is spend on.

The next thing we wanted to see was about 44 kilometres away, the location where Elijah and the priests of Baal contented and where he perhaps saw a little cloud coming out of the sea. Unfortunately another church was built on this place, and it was closed between 12.30pm and 14.30pm. We arrived at 12.50pm. You couldn't really see a lot there or check this might have been the location. Moreover, not all of us would be able to enter, as shorts were forbidden (happens at more sites). So we drove to the beach. Here Haifa, the backdrop for the beach.

And here the kids in the Great Sea, or Mediterranean Sea in modern language.

Today was also Rosh Hashana, the start of the new year. It's also the first of the High Holidays, a series of Jewish holidays. The American land lady of the B&B told as that at Rosh Hashana the Jews eat apple dipped in honey, as a wish for  sweet new year. She herself had a dinner, so we had the house all to ourselves. Ida had cooked a meal, but a friend of hers had brought us some apples so we could also hopefully receive the taste of a sweet new year (it didn't help, see one of the next stories).

From Tiberias to Dan to Haifa

On Thursday September 17 we left our guest house, and went past one more site next to Tiberias: the location of the sermon on the mount. This is the Sea of Galilee, taken from the supposed location.

Unfortunately the site (if this is the site) is, again, spoiled by the Roman Catholics, who build another set of buildings here, and masses and what have you going on all the time.

It also doesn't really look (any more) like a suitable location. Here the car park.

Next we drove all the way North, to the most Northern point of ancient and current Israel: Dan. This is at the foot of Mount Hermon. It is also the location where the Jordan finds it origins. We went there to see both. Below us at the main source of the Jordan. The Jordan is fed by many springs, but this is by far the most important.

The springs originate from rain and snowfall on Mount Hermon and find their way through the rock and emerge here. It doesn't look like much, but a few hundred metres from here all this water has combined into this:

And maybe a 50 kilometres (??) South the Jordan looks like this:

And here the location where Jeroboam built his altar and put his golden calf.

There is also a platform as the Romans also built a temple here.

The Israeli border is also near by. In 1964 Israel and Syria fought a minor war here as Syria attempted to divert Jordan's biggest spring for its own use. Israel paved a road along the border, so they could patrol it I presume. I think this might be one of the bulldozers used for that project.

Trenches:

Israeli patrol along the road they paved:

And then we came to the city of Dan, formerly Laish. As the Bible says in Judges 18:29 "And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first." These ruins are now also famous for the Tel Dan Stele, the first inscription outside the Bible that mentions the house of David.

At Dan we also saw a fairly large lizzard, hand-sized. I had seen a bigger one at the Sea of Galilee already, but this was the first time the kids saw a really big lizzard.

Below is Abraham's gate, so called because the gate is dated to the patriarchical era, and because Abraham traveled to Dan to rescue his brother Lot: "And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained [servants], born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued [them] unto Dan."

All this walking and the heat, 35C if not more, makes one very hot. Here Auke dipping his head into a pool.

And then it was time to drive all the way West, to Haifa. Here our B&B. It's called the quiet place. It was cheap, so won't complain too much, but it wasn't that quiet, being woken up at 5:30 by the lcoal garbage collection. It also didn't have an airco unfortunately.

For me the day wasn't over as I had to drive down the Tel Aviv at night to meet with a Canadian client who happened to be in Israel at this time. So that was another 1.5 hours South, and then back. It was past 12 when I was back in Haifa.

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