The last day of our amazing journey!

Israel Museum, Machane Yehuda, and Farewell dinner

Pastor Nabors in regular type:

Sunday, November 2-

I rise for breakfast at 7, shower, dress and go out into the sunny 75 degree weather.  We gather in the lobby and prepare to head to our bus outside.  I’ve written personal cards to everyone, thanking them for participating in this splendid time together.  At the same time, there is an effort on my part to assess and determine exactly how all of this will influence and widen my work and service at Second Baptist.  After all, the congregation has given me two full weeks to make this Holy Pilgrimage.  I am so grateful to our ministry team, Rev. Eddie, our church staff- Karen and Elizabeth, our officers- Deacons and Trustees and the congregation.  To know that people have confidence in you, and that they are counting on you to bring something back, is exciting and challenging at the same time! 

We board the bus and bid au revoir to this wonderful patch of God’s amazing earth.  This is our last day.  We are now heading back to Jerusalem, to visit the National Museum.  We pass the government “section” of the city, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Knesset are all a stone’s throw from each other.  Our guide tells us they were built in this area (another hill) because some believed it would represent the “3rd Temple.” Just one block away is the Museum.  As we enter the first exhibit is a very larger replica of the city of Jerusalem.  It almost takes up a courtyard.  We review it carefully and notice that it is a replica of an old Jerusalem, before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  We look at a few other outdoor monuments and then proceed to an area housing the Dead Sea Scrolls. We go downstairs, as if in a cave (where they were found).  As I review many of the fragments and other material found in the cave, I notice a familiar name “Dr. James Charlesworth.”  Dr. Charlesworth was on a team (because of his linguistic expertise) that discovered a fragment containing part of the book of Exodus.  Dr. Charlesworth was one of my professors at Princeton.  He was known then to travel to Israel on a regular basis to study and assist with reading the scrolls as more layers became available.  He made the discovery regarding the Book of Exodus about fifteen years ago.  What a small world.  Amazingly, I played ball with him during Intramural Season and recognized, “he had no left.”  LOL. 

We then had an extended period to explore the museum but it was not enough time.  There are very large exhibits representing ancient empires and countries around the world.  I was consumed with tree exhibits; the African Exhibit, the Canaanite Exhibit and the Roman Empire Exhibit.  What I learned in just a few moments of exploring was mind boggling, particularly the Canaanite section. 

Mahane Yehuda Market (or, the “Shuk”)

After the exhibit we made a short bus ride to the Outdoor Market of Jerusalem.  If you ever go to Jerusalem and have even a brief stay, this market place is an absolute must.  It is filled with life, people and energy.  Thousands of people browse and shop among the more than two hundred and fifty vendors who sell their wares of fruit, nuts, seeds, meat and cheeses, spices, wine and liquor, vegetables, breads and desserts.  In between these are shops and cafes for coffee, lunch, dinner and more.  And liquor.  There are more liquor stops (they don’t call them bars) in this marketplace than I have ever seen.  While it is only about 2 PM, most of them are full!  The sheer color and variety of the place is amazing. 

I separate from the group and just walk for the next two hours up and down Agrippas Avenue to Jaffa Road.  From there, I also walk, taking in every moment, looking at every sight, breathing every aroma and realizing that halfway around the world- the familiarity of humanity here is hardly different than any other place I have lived or visited.  Young lovers stroll hand in hand, families walk in small groups with laughter and talk.  Teenagers walk in larger groups through the marketplace, laughing, gesturing and talking loudly.  Old couples walk hand in hand, slowly and with measured paces, enjoying every moment.  After a few hours, we gather together as our bus comes to take us to the next destination, in the waning hours of our trip. 

Dinner in a Palestinian Home in the West Bank

We are driven to the West Bank, deep in the West Bank.  We pass the checkpoint into section C and it is a different world.  The traffic was just horrendous and it took forever for us to get through to reach our destination.  Finally, the driver pulls over to the side of the road next to a blackened alley leading up a hill.  It is so dark, you cannot see your hand in front of your face.  “We are here,” says Amit.  And we all wonder, “Where is here?”  “Our guest lives just a few hundred yards this way.”  We get off the bus and begin walking up the alley hill in complete darkness, entrusting our very existence to these guides.  The host is not home but is a co-owner of the tour company.  We are met by two of his young sons playing in their courtyard.  We go inside and a table has been beautifully arranged for us.  We wash our hands and sit down.  An upside down hicken/rice dish is brought out in two very large pans.  Our guide Alaa takes the lid off one and very quick turns the pot over.  Like an upside down pineapple cake, the food is before us in the shape of cake, with the chicken on top, with rice, tomatoes and potatoes.  It is really delicious. 

The arrangement is different from the dinner we had in our first days at the Jewish Rabbi’s home.  Here, we are served and eat among ourselves.  An older daughter and the wife of our host are in the background and I take for granted they have done the cooking.  Later, I go into the kitchen to put my dishes there and see the oldest daughter praying on a prayer mat.  I quietly back into the dining room until she is finished. 

After dinner, a band performs Palestinian songs and we dance the night away.  Daniel, our accomplished guitarist heard the band and actually went in and practiced with them.  A surprise tune was then placed with Daniel at the guitar and lead vocals, “Kiss” by Prince.  As I sat in that beautiful home in the West Bank of a Palestinian home, with our Jewish friends from Beth Emet, our Jewish and Palestinian guides and my African American self, I marveled to myself, “Jesus have mercy.  Prince is all the way over here….bringing us all together with the universal langue of love.” 

Rabbi London: This is an incredible way to end the trip—a half Jewish, half Palestinian band playing Palestinian songs in a Palestinian home. So much fun and so hopeful!

We soon departed and three of us were dropped off at the airport- Ted, Judy and I have the first flight out, to Brussels.  We have a three and a half hour wait, as the flight is scheduled to depart at 1:00 AM.  The flight departs on time and we are off to Brussels, where we have a nearly five hour wait.  We find breakfast and I find myself writing.  Finally, we board and I sit next to a young systems engineer from Brussels on his way to work for a few weeks in Phoenix.  I watch movie after movie, not sleepy and the seat is too small to type comfortably. 

Finally, we are minutes from O’Hare.  I look out the window and see my beloved Lake Michigan and it dawns on me that I have just taken the trip of a lifetime.  The destination points, the people and their hopes, the communities and their stories, the homes filled with love, the sights and sounds, are all part of this human drama we call life.  Without yet processing the complete journey, I find myself taking away ten important lessons:

  1. Everyone possesses an essential and vital story.
  2. No one story is single and independent from others.
  3. Masses of people are suffering each day.
  4. Religion and ideology can be among the most dangerous instruments on earth.
  5. Nothing, nothing…is, as it seems.
  6. The most bitter seeds of hopelessness sown, often reap harvests of unrequited possibilities.
  7. If you listen to others while tuning out your own voice, opinion and agenda…oh the things you will learn. 
  8. Using God to accomplish your means never works, but God using you to accomplish God’s will, always works.
  9. All human suffering is equally…insufferable.
  10. In the words of the timeless O’Jays, we must, of necessity, start a Love Train throughout the world.  It is our only hope. 

Rabbi London: I can’t say it better than my wise and articulate colleague. What a gift to have been on this journey of learning and discovery, to have these lessons reinforced, and to know that there are fellow travelers who are committed to living these lessons. I am blessed!

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