Our fifth trip to Israel is nearly done, and it ended with perhaps the most Israeli experience of the journey: when we emerged from the Museum of the Jewish People on the campus of Tel Aviv University, our rental car with all of our luggage in the trunk had disappeared into thin air. There may be nothing more disorienting than standing on the sidewalk and trying to figure out how to say “Dude, where’s my car?” in the native tongue.
Through the kindness of strangers, none of whom appeared to be angels, but were mostly patient and helpful anyway, we tracked down our car in a remote impound lot in a gritty corner of the city. Literally every single person with whom we dealt this afternoon shared their own stories of having their own cars (or cabs – one with a driver sleeping inside!) towed. Apparently, towing cars is big business here in Tel Aviv.
We came to Israel to serve, to learn, to pray (in addition to today’s “God, where is our car?”) and to encourage both friends and strangers with whom we spent time. We visited places new to us including Herodium, Sepphoris, Tzfat, a quick trip into Abu Ghosh, a stay at Yad Hashmona moshav in the Judean Hills and today’s museum – and discovered new connections with both our Jewish heritage and our faith in our Jewish Savior. We remain grateful with the care and depth of the work our friends at Caspari do to build both bridges and disciples. Most of all, we enjoyed rich conversation with friends here, as well as some interesting conversations with strangers: a searching young woman we met on the street in Szfat who’d come to Israel with her children from the States two weeks ago, a retired man who is spending some of his time monitoring media reports about Israel in his native New Zealand. I got asked for directions on the street several times in Hebrew. I might look like I could be from here, but the minute I open my mouth, Chicago (Bang! Bang! Al Capone!) comes out.
There is more to say, of course, but tonight, as I look out the window of our hotel and watch the cars streaming below me on the Ayalon highway, I remember that in this complex land, at the heart of it all for my people – and in fact for all of us – is a longing for true shalom. These words of Jesus are the only way true peace is possible: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Here are a few pictures from the trip. If you want to see more, I’ll be happy to bore you to tears with dozens and dozens more, any time.