(Sorry this is more abbreviated than my entry was just 20 minutes ago but it didn't save and when I tried to post only a small part was saved so I am now re-doing my blog so it is not as complete.)
It was weird thinking as we got up this morning that this was our last day as a group. After being together for so long and experiencing so much together it was just weird to think about separating. It was kind of like summer camp where you go and meet new people and share experiences and then everyone hugs and goes home. We have made some lasting friendships and have some wonderful places to visit with friends living there now! There was even a new Phillips Seminary student on the trip and she lives in Colorado so we offered her our upstairs for when she has to take classes here. She was thrilled as were we! Luckily the internet makes keeping in touch so much easier so we hopefully won't loose touch. Anyway back to the day...
After breakfast we had a very nice church service down in the basement of our hotel. We have had some very meaningful worship services this trip. This one was bitter sweet knowing it was our last. After the service we had another speaker but this time we heard from a conservative Jew. This man was born in America but came to Israel as a child. He is a colonel in the Israeli army and if I understood it right it is a volunteer position. He gave us a lot of historical, political background to conflict in the middle east but didn't really touch on the Israeli/Palestinian issues. When we asked questions he skirted around the issue and didn't really answer our questions. He seemed to blame the situation on the Palestinians and excused many things in the name of security which we have heard repeatedly this past week. We had to leave which was probably a good thing since we were all getting frustrated with him.
We got on the bus with all of our luggage and headed to B'tselem which is a Jewish organization that monitors the human rights violations in the occupied areas. They write up reports which are actually looked at and used. One of the other things that they do is arm the Palestinians with cameras to use to record injustices. The cameras work two fold, one when the Israeli forces see the cameras they back off the use of violence and two the cameras give the Palestinian youth a way to fight back without using violence. She explained the situation very well and it was good to hear it from an Israeli point of view. We got a great map and some hand outs too.
After finishing with our last speaker of the trip, we loaded back into the bus and headed to the Armenian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem for lunch. We ate at an Armenian restaurant and the food was very good and very plentiful. We had so much we hardly made a dent. We even had fresh squeezed lemonade to drink. After lunch we had free time and got to walk around the bazaar area of the Old City. One of the first stalls/stores we stopped in had old coins, figurines and vessels from ancient times. They had things dating back to King David's time and before. It was like walking in a museum. I would have loved to have been able to afford something but it was fun to look. The were stalls that sold spices of all kinds heaped and even pyramided (Glenn got a picture), a bead stall that had more beads than imaginable, toys, scarves, socks and underwear, clothes, and every other thing imaginable. It was crowded but a lot of fun. Most of the people we have met have been very nice. But one of the women in our little group was berated for touching his scarves because she wouldn't go into his stores. He called her a liar and was very ugly. So needless to say he didn't get any of our business! After walking around and to the Damascus gate we went back to the hotel to meet the bus.
We got back on the bus and drove to Beit Sahour, the Shepherd's fields area, again for dinner. Yes, we really weren't hungry yet but we had to eat earlier than usual since most were heading to the airport afterwards. The dinner was sponsored and paid for by the tour company. It was very good and plentiful! They had some young adults doing traditional dances. It was neat because the first dance they did was the exact same dance that the kids did yesterday for us at the school. It was neat to see how it is done by older kids. They were very good and even got our tour guide out dancing with them at one point. After dinner we loaded back up for the last time for the ride to the airport. It was over an hour ride and most talked and shared.
At the airport we all hugged and said our good byes. We have made some good friends and have some neat places to visit when we visit them! One of the women in a seminary student at Phillips but lives in Colorado. We offered out upstairs when she needs a place to stay. We were both thrilled with the prospect of seeing each other again soonish. As they headed into the terminal we caught a cab to our hotel.
It was quite a drive into Tel Aviv and our hotel. We are staying right on the Mediterranean and have a great room. Our room is on the second floor on the corner so we have one window and a sliding glass door. We have a huge wraparound porch with a view of a large fountain in the middle of a roundabout and the beach. Couldn't ask for a better room. We were tired so we got settled and I did my blog (twice!). Tomorrow I am looking forward to no alarm and no schedule! We are going to relax and recoup before the next leg. Tomorrow I hope to take some time to try to begin processing all I have heard and seen this past week. So either by blog will be short because I am still processing or it make be longer if my brain is cooperating. We shall see!